Words index  Vivian Cook

MEASURING MEANING

The Semantic Differential Test

Words can have many different types of meanings that. One of them is tested in this semantic differential test that has been used in all sorts of ways since the 1950s by advertisers to test what people think of their products, psychoanalysts to see differences between the personalities of people with multiple-personality disorder and politicians to see how people think of their policies

 What does Donald Trump mean to you?

Fill in how much Donald Trump is related to the concepts on each of the following scales.

                    |_7_|__6_|__5_|_4__|_3_|_2__|_1_|

1  fair | ||||||| unfair

2  strong |!||||||  weak

3  fast |||||||| slow

4  clean |||||||| dirty

5  hard |||||||| soft

6  bright ||||||||   dark

7 pleasant |||||||| unpleasant

8 heavy ||||||||   light

9   active |||||||| passive

10 sweet |||||||| sour

11 large |||||||| small

12sharp | ||||||| dull

Now:

- add up the scores for 1, 4, 7, 10: this is the evaluation factor          

-  add up the scores 2, 5, 8, 11: this is the potency factor

-    add up the scores for 3, 6, 9, 12: this is the activity factor 

So to you Donald Trump is /28 evaluation, /28 potency, /28 activity

These are called the three dimensions of semantic space, if you imagined the scores for Donald Trump put in a cube with three dimensions. Any concept you like can be measured in this way. The original research tested concepts ranging from dawn to engine to capital punishment, usually making use of 76 scales.

Now you can apply the same tool  the same using another politician or any other concept available in English.

 

What does ______ mean to you?


Fill in how much is related to the concepts on each of the following scales.

             |_7__|__6_|__5_|_4__|_3__|_2___|_1__|

1        fair |||||||| unfair

2       strong ||||||||  weak

3       fast ||||||||  slow

4       clean ||||||||  dirty

5        hard |||||||| soft

6       bright |||||||| dark

7  pleasant |||||||| unpleasant

8      heavy |||||||| light

9      active ||||||||   passive

10    sweet ||||||||  sour

11     large ||||||||  small

12    sharp | |||||||  dull

Original source: Osgood, C.E., Suci, G.J. & Tannenbaum, P.H. (1957), The Measurement of Meaning, University of Illinois Press