A Likert scale is a psychometric rating scale that is frequently used in research and other areas. Such scales are administered using questionnaires where respondents rate their reactions, feeling, or attitude on a scale (usually between 1 and 5).
The questions on a Likert scale are known as Likert-type items. Items on a Likert scale consist of statements that define and describe the specific content that is being measured, which typically focuses on expressing preferences, judgments, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes.
For example, political opinion researchers might ask participants to rate how strongly they feel about specific topics on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 corresponding to “I don’t care at all” and 5 corresponding to “I care deeply.”
This scale was invented by psychologist Rensis Likert. Likert introduced this scale in a monograph titled A Technique for the Measurement of Attitudes in 1932.
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How a Likert Scale Works
A Likert scale is based on the idea that feelings, attitudes, and opinions can be rated in terms of intensity on a linear scale. This intensity can be assigned a numeric value which can later be used to derive a numeric score.
A Likert scale can measure various types of information:
- Frequency: Test items may ask respondents to describe how often they engage in a behavior. This might include options ranging from “daily” to “rarely.”
- Intensity: A Likert scale can be used to assess the intensity of a person’s feelings about a particular subject.
- Quality: Test items might ask respondents to rate their opinion of the quality of a particular product or service, with responses ranging from “excellent” to “very poor.”
- Likelihood: Respondents may also be asked to rate the likelihood that they will engage in a particular behavior, with responses ranging from “very likely” to “very unlikely.”
- Agreement: Test items may also ask respondents to identify whether or not they agree with different statements, with options ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.”
- Familiarity: A Likert scale may also ask participants to describe how familiar they are with a particular idea, item, or individual. This type of scale is often used in marketing to determine how familiar an audience is with a brand or product.
The scaling method on a Likert scale can be unipolar or bipolar. Unipolar scales tend to be easier for respondents to understand and range from a low to a high response. An example would be “How appealing is this product?” with responses ranging from “not appealing at all” to “very appealing.
Bipolar means it ranges from either a positive or negative response to an item, with a neutral middle choice such as “neither agree or disagree.” However, sometimes this option is not included, which forces respondents to make either a positive or negative choice.
Examples of a Likert Scale
You have probably encountered a variety of Likert scales in the past. Examples of items you might find on a Likert scale include:
Customer Satisfaction Surveys
How happy are you with our service?
5 – Very happy
4 – Somewhat happy
3 – Neutral
2 – Somewhat unhappy
1 – Very unhappy
Most people are satisfied with the job that Congress does.
5 – Strongly agree
4 – Somewhat agree
3 – Neither agree nor disagree
2 – Somewhat disagree
1 – Strongly disagree
Consumer Behavior Surveys
Based on your experience, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend?
4 – Very likely
3 – Somewhat likely
2 – Somewhat unlikely
1 – Very unlikely
While options on each item often range from 4 to 5, they can also consist of just 2 options or even 7 or more. The specific number depends on what is being assessed, and factors such as time available.
Interpreting the Results of a Likert Scale
To assess and interpret the results of a Likert scale, researchers will assign a point value to each response. The exact numbers that are used depend on the number of responses that are presented on the scale. Common values include 1 point for responses that are “strongly disagree,” “very unlikely,” and similar responses; and 5 points for responses that are “strongly agree,” “very likely,” and similar responses.
Results are then tabulated. Specific measures that can be particularly meaningful when interpreting the results include the mode, which is the most frequently occurring response in a data set, and the mean, which is the mathematical average.
The numbers that researchers choose to utilize when evaluating the results may depend on a variety of factors, including the size of the sample.
Strengths and Limitations of Likert Scales
Like other types of psychological assessments, a Likert scale can have both pros and cons. On the plus side, a Likert scale can be used to collect qualitative information about a topic.
One limitation of this measure is that it is sometimes prone to bias. Likert scales are sometimes affected by the acquiescence bias, also known as the “yes” bias. This bias causes respondents to either respond positively to negatively to test items, which is often influenced by how the question is worded.
Participants may respond in ways that they believe are socially desirable, particularly if the results are not anonymous or if they are asked to provide identifying information.
When to Use a Likert Scale
Likert scales are great for getting qualitative information from a group of people. Some situations where you might want to use a Likert scale include:
- When you want to know the prevailing attitudes that are present in a group
- When you want to know what an audience thinks about a brand or product
- When you want to know how employees feel about specific organizational initiatives
- When you are interested in knowing more about how customers feel about the services they receive
- When you want to understand public sentiment about political issues or candidates
Research also suggests that Likert scales can be effective and powerful tools for assessing the quality of life in patients following medical treatments.
Tips for Using a Likert Scale
If you need to create a Likert scale for a psychology class, here are some tips that can help:
- Write clear, understandable questions
- Keep responses consistent
- Try to use questions instead of statements
- Avoid asking leading questions
- Include a broad range of questions
- Ask open-ended questions
- Flip the scales to change how responses are scored (i.e. sometimes 1=very dissatisfied and other times 1=very satisfied)
Likert scales can be particularly useful when collecting attitudinal information, which is why this type of rating scale is so frequently utilized in psychology, education, social science, political, and marketing research. However, such tests can also have limitations, including potential bias caused by social pressure to respond in ways that are viewed as socially desirable.
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