2009 Student Research Conference:
22nd Annual Student Research Conference

Impact of the Number of Response Options and Scale Length on Reliability
Jennifer L. LaChapell*, Kyle W. VanIttersum, Jennifer D. Schmidt, Taelor M. Cash, Amelia A. Bobzien, and Tracy H. Mulderig
Dr. Teresa Heckert, Faculty Mentor

The literature on the optimal number of response options for maximizing reliability of typical performance (e.g., personality) tests is inconclusive. The recommended maximum was found to be five (Bandalos & Enders, 1996), seven (Cicchetti et. al., 1985) or ten (Thorndike et al., 1991). Other researchers (e.g., Masters, 1974) have criticized the usage of a neutral option. Given that reliability increases with scale length, the optimal number may be influenced by the number of items. No published research could be found on this interaction. Our study compared the reliability of five, six, and seven response options for scales of varying lengths (i.e., 5, 10, and 20 items). We found that the optimal number of options depended on the number of items, such that the five-item measure was more sensitive to changing the number of options.

Keywords: response options, number of scale items, reliability, performance tests, personality

Topic(s):Psychology

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 4-3
Location: VH 1010
Time: 8:45

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