Original Research

The effect of the spatial positioning of items on the reliability of questionnaires measuring affect

Leigh Leo, Sebastian Kolsch, Azaria Beukes, Freddie Crous, Johann Scheepers
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 42, No 1 | a1303 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v42i1.1303 | © 2016 Leigh Leo, Sebastian Kolsch, Azaria Beukes, Freddie Crous, Johann Scheepers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 September 2015 | Published: 31 August 2016

About the author(s)

Leigh Leo, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Sebastian Kolsch, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Azaria Beukes, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Freddie Crous, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Johann Scheepers, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, University of Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: Extant research has shown that the relationship between spatial location and affect may have pervasive effects on evaluation. In particular, experimental findings on embodied cognition indicate that a person is spatially orientated to position what is positive at the top and what is negative at the bottom (vertical spatial orientation), and to a lesser extent, to position what is positive on the left and what is negative on the right (horizontal spatial orientation). It is therefore hypothesised, that when there is congruence between a respondent’s spatial orientation (related to affect) and the spatial positioning (layout) of a questionnaire, the reliability will be higher than in the case of incongruence.

Research purpose: The principal objective of the two studies reported here was to ascertain the extent to which congruence between a respondent’s spatial orientation (related to affect) and the layout of the questionnaire (spatial positioning of questionnaire items) may impact on the reliability of a questionnaire measuring affect.

Motivation for the study: The spatial position of items on a questionnaire measuring affect may indirectly impact on the reliability of the questionnaire.

Research approach, design and method: In both studies, a controlled experimental research design was conducted using a sample of university students (n = 1825).

Major findings: In both experiments, evidence was found to support the hypothesis that greater congruence between a respondent’s spatial orientation (related to affect) and the spatial positioning (layout) of a questionnaire leads to higher reliability on a questionnaire measuring affect.

Practical implications: These findings may serve to create awareness of the influence of the spatial positioning of items as a confounding variable in questionnaire design.

Contribution/value-add: Overall, this research complements previous studies by confirming the metaphorical representation of affect and enhances our understanding of embodiment-related conceptual processing and its subsequent influence on self-evaluations versus external evaluations on an unconscious level, specifically in relation to measuring affect.


Keywords

embodied cognition; questionnaire design; spatial positioning; affect; relaibility; orientational metaphors

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