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Likert scale: definition and how to use it

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A Likert scale is a type of rating scale, often found on survey forms or questionnaires, that measures how people feel about something which can be useful in many different situations. This article explores the Likert scale in-depth and will help you to use it in the right way.

Have you ever seen the picture shown below? If the answer is no, then let us introduce it to you. What you see in the picture is the scale question used by doctors to measure the amount of pain a patient is feeling. This is only one of the hundreds of different scale questions that are being used worldwide as a tool for measurement.

Likert scale example

Scales are often used in online surveys. Scales are like the improved version of binary “Yes/No” questions and they are able to measure attitudes and opinions of the audience with a greater degree of nuance. This kind of question is known as a Likert scale. Likert scales are widely used to measure attitudes and opinions with a greater degree of nuance than a simple “yes/no” question.

Generally, a scale question can be defined as a type of closed-ended question(a question that presents respondents with pre-defined answer choices) in which there is a range of words or numbers that represent a wide spectrum of audience opinions, attitudes, perception, etc.

Likert scale definition

A Likert scale, named after its inventor, the American social scientist Rensis Likert, is the most widely used psychometric approach to ask the audience about their opinion or feeling in survey research using usually 5 or 7 answer options range. Respondents can give a negative, neutral or positive response to a statement. They are usually used to gauge agreement, importance or likelihood,

The term is often used interchangeably with rating scale even though the two are not synonymous.

According to Wikipedia, a rating scale is a set of categories designed to elicit information about a quantitative or a qualitative attribute. In the social sciences, particularly psychology, common examples are the Likert response scale and 1-10 rating scales in which a person selects the number which is considered to reflect the perceived quality of a product.

So, we can say that Likert scales are a subtype of rating scales.

A Likert scale assumes that the strength/intensity of an attitude is linear, i.e. on a continuum from strongly agree to strongly disagree, and makes the assumption that attitudes can be measured.

Likert scales allow quantitive data to be collected hence they can be analyzed more easily.

However, like all surveys, the validity of the Likert scale attitude measurement can be compromised due to social desirability.

This means that individuals may lie to put themselves in a positive light. For example, if the Likert scale was measuring discrimination, who would admit to being someone who discriminates? This type of question can be designed as an uneven-point scale, e.g. a 5-point or 7-point scale, with a neutral middle option, or as an even-point scale, e.g. a 4-point or 6-point scale, omitting a neutral option and forcing a more positive or more negative response choice. Researchers have investigated the possibility of something called a left-side bias when displaying a Likert scale question horizontally. Essentially, left-side bias means that when placing answer options on the left side of the Likert scale, there is a tendency among respondents to select these options, said tendency being somewhat stronger for positive options on the left side than negative options. Furthermore, there has been other research showing a similar, yet even stronger selection bias for vertical Likert scales as respondents tend to skip lower displayed answer options and more often select the top options. Based on these statements, certain scale layouts appear more suitable to avoid survey bias and sloppy question answering than others.

Likert scale layout

Horizontal Likert Scale

According to the Likert scale bias matrix, to keep the bias as low as possible in horizontal order, it appears best to place negative attitude options on the left side of the scale and positive attitude options on the right side of the scale.

Example of scale question

Vertical Likert Scale

According to the Likert scale bias matrix, to keep the bias as low as possible in vertical order, it appears best to place negative attitude options at the top of the scale and positive attitude options at the bottom of the scale.

How satisfied are you with product #1?

There are two general types of Likert questions: Unipolar and Bipolar.


Unipolar scales are more contoured, allowing users to instead focus on the absence or presence of a single item. The scale measures the ordinal data, but most of the times unipolar scales generate more accurate answers.

Unipolar likert scale blog


A bipolar scale indicates a respondent to balance two different qualities, defining the relative proportion of those qualities. Where a unipolar scale has one “pole,” a bipolar scale has two polar opposites.

bipolar likert scale

So, are you ready to find out what your audience thinks about a subject?

Mentimeter can help you create the most engaging and useful scale question without any hard work.

Read these two articles and start using scales questions to collect data from your audience!

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