Beyond Likert ratings: Improving the robustness of developmental research measurement using best-worst scaling

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  • Nichola Burton
  • Michael Burton
  • Carmen Fisher
  • Patricia Gonzalez Pena
  • Gillian Rhodes
  • Louise Ewing

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Some of the ‘best practice’ approaches to ensuring reproducibility of research can be difficult to implement in the developmental and clinical domains, where sample sizes and session lengths are constrained by the practicalities of recruitment and testing. For this reason, an important area of improvement to target is the reliability of measurement. Here we demonstrate that best–worst scaling (BWS) provides a superior alternative to Likert ratings for measuring children’s subjective impressions. Seventy-three children aged 5–6 years rated the trustworthiness of faces using either Likert ratings or BWS over two sessions. Individual children’s ratings in the BWS condition were significantly more consistent from session 1 to session 2 than those in the Likert condition, a finding we also replicate with a large adult sample (N = 72). BWS also produced more reliable ratings at the group level than Likert ratings in the child sample. These findings indicate that BWS is a developmentally appropriate response format that can deliver substantial improvements in reliability of measurement, which can increase our confidence in the robustness of findings with children.


Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Early online date5 Apr 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Apr 2021


    Research areas

  • Best-worst scaling, Children, Development, Face perception, Measurement, Trust

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