What we did, in a nutshell

This innovative research study applies psychophysiological insights to uncover the comparability between commonly used satisfaction measures, namely the explicit, rationally expressed Likert scale and less common implicit, feeling-based Self-assessment Manikin (SAM) responses. More specifically, the study demonstrates the use of anchoring vignettes (brief examples depicting hypothetical individuals who manifest satisfaction or dissatisfaction) as a viable means to provide consistency in meaning to the concept of satisfaction among diverse populations and individuals.  Furthermore, it enhances an understanding of satisfaction measures and supports future consumer and marketing efforts that rely on them.

How we did it

The quasi-experimental research design applied in this study involved an experimental and a control group being asked to indicate levels of satisfaction by responding to verbal (Likert scales), non-verbal (Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM)) and open-ended questions on a continuum of rational to more feeling-based or emotional responses. The experimental group was additionally exposed to controlled riming in the form of anchoring vignettes.

An extract from the report illustrates the subjective interpretation of the concept of satisfaction. Participants were asked how satisfied they were with each of three images.  The findings are reflected in the figure below:

What we found

The experimental group were more decisive in their responses with respect to either being satisfied (see full colour graph) or dissatisfied (black and white and one-colour graphs).  This finding confirms the response pattern of the Likert Scale. The experimental group also showed a greater homogeneity of responses. This is possibly due to the use of anchoring vignettes. The report furthermore reflects an analysis of Galvanic Skin Responses (ie. fingertip sweat that indicates emotion) illustrating that satisfaction levels felt, reflect more pertinently in non-verbal measures.

Why is this important?

Findings from this research add to an understanding of the impact of diversity in South Africa on surveys measuring specific concepts. It may therefore find application in the field of marketing and in other business fields where the measurement of concepts such as satisfaction, requiring consistent interpretation, is of importance. The concept of satisfaction is complex and, as such, measurement of this and similar concepts that are open to interpretation, needs to be reconsidered, particularly in the context of individual and group differences.


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