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Visual Props: The Faces Scale

Another interesting device is the faces scale shown in figure 11.3. It’s a 7-point (or 5- point, or 9-point) scale with stylized faces that change from joy to gloom.

This technique was developed by Kunin in 1955 to measure job satisfaction and has been used widely for this ever since. It’s a really good device for capturing people’s feelings

FIGURE 11.3.

The faces scale.

SOURCE: F. M. Andrews and S. B. Withey, Social Indicators of Well-Being: Americans' Perceptions of Life Quality, appendix A, p. 13. Copyright © 1976. Reprinted by permission of Plenum Publishing Corporation.

about a wide variety of things—health care, personal safety, consumer items (brands of beer, titles of current movies), and so on. People are told: ‘‘Here are some faces expressing various feelings. Which face comes closest to how you feel about x?’’ Try using this scale with names of well-known political figures or music artists just to get a feel for how interesting it is.

Physicians and psychologists use this scale as a prop when they ask patients to describe pain. It’s particularly good when working with children (Gulur et al. 2009; Wong and Baker 1988), but it’s effective with adults as well (A. Harrison 1993) and, like the ladder of life and the semantic differential, has been used in many populations, in one form or another (Further Reading faces scale).

There is some evidence that the meaning of the faces in figure 11.3 is nearly universal (Ekman 1993), but Oliver Kortendick used the faces scale in his research on social networks in Papua New Guinea, and people did not respond well to the task. It seems that the face farthest to the right, which almost everyone in Europe, North America, and Latin America interprets as ‘‘unhappy’’ was interpreted in Papua New Guinea as ‘‘hostility’’ and ‘‘aggression’’—two emotions that were simply not talked about openly in the village where Kortendick did his work (personal communication).

 
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