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A Developmental Study of the Semantic Differential

Lilly, Roy S.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
National Science Foundation (NSF), Office of Naval Research, Princeton University, Affective Measures, Age Differences, Emotional Response, Response Style (Tests), Semantic differential technique., Test Reliability


The large literature on Osgood's Semantic Differential (SD) suggests that for adults there are three major dimensions in the domain of affective meaning--evaluation, potency, and activity. Since there have been no systematic, developmental studies of the SD, the main purpose of the present study was to explore the changes in the dimensions of affective meaning as a function of age. A second purpose was to obtain test-retest reliabilities of the SD for children. It was concluded that the primary dimensions of affective meaning for children as young as grade three children were very similar to those for adults. It was suggested that earlier studies, which found fewer dimensions for children than adults, were restricted by the small number of concepts and scales used rather than by any limitation on the judgmental capacities of the children. The findings were also related to relevant theories of cognitive development.

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