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Thurstone Scale

Market research 04 12
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Customers’ decision to do business with you depends on the attitude they form towards your business. While it is easy to gather insight into their attitude, it is difficult to quantify them. However, you need to quantify customers’ attitudes to compare opinions and predict behavior. 

The Thurstone scale is a way to quantify customers’ attitudes using an “agreement-disagreement” scale. The scale can help you uncover how a respondent feels and the strength of their feeling.


What is a Thurstone Scale?

Thurstone Scale in Surveys1

A Thurstone scale can be defined as a unidimensional scale that can be used to track respondent behavior, feelings, or attitude toward a particular subject. It does so using a format of ‘agree-disagree’ statements.

The scale presents statements about certain issues or subjects, and each statement is associated with a numerical value. This numerical value indicates whether the respondent’s attitude toward the subject is favorable or unfavorable. Once respondents indicate their feelings toward a statement, a mean score of agreements and disagreements is calculated. This score is meant to be reflective of a respondent’s attitude on the topic. 

It is similar to the Likert scale, however, it takes into account the value of each category on the scale while evaluating the final attitude score, and also caters to neutral items.

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Example of a Thurstone scale survey question

Surveys that employ the use of this type of scale will often present a series of related, dichotomous statements on a particular subject. Here are a few examples.

  1. I enjoy extracurricular activities.
  • Agree
  • Disagree
  1. I am motivated to participate in extracurricular activities.
  • Agree
  • Disagree
  1. I am often so involved in my extracurricular activities that the day goes by quicker.
  • Agree
  • Disagree


How to use the Thurstone scale in surveys?

Thurstone Scale in Surveys2

These are most commonly used in the following ways: 

  • Surveys that measure opinions: The scale can produce quantifiable data on the strength of respondents’ opinions in regard to a specific topic.
  • Surveys that gauge sentiment: The scale can be used to predict things such as employee turnover rate, or repeat purchases. This scale is often used while measuring customer satisfaction levels and employee engagement.

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Steps to create a Thurstone scale

1. Outline your research question

The first step to creating your Thurstone scale is to identify and outline your research question. You must keep in mind that the statements have to indicate a person’s attitude on a particular subject. 

For example, your research topic could be to find people’s opinions towards colleague seat reservations for the minor community. 

2. Create a series of agree-disagree statements

The next step is to generate a series of agree-disagree statements that support the subject in varying degrees. It is helpful to include many statements as it will provide you with clearer and more useful data. 

Your statements can be like the following examples. 

  1. Reserving college seats for minor communities takes away the opportunity from deserving candidates. 
  2. College seat reservation gives the minor community an opportunity to evolve. 
  3. The policy gives less fortunate but excellent candidates from the minor community to sharpen their talent. 
  4. College seat reservation policy boosts the reputation of the college/university. 
  5. The policy creates a rift between the students who take admission without reservation & those with reservation. 
  6. This policy decreases productivity. 
  7. This often causes discrimination on teachers’ part towards the students from the minority community.

3.  Assign a score to each statement

Once you’ve generated your agree-disagree statements, it is now time to assign each statement a score between 1 to 11 based on how strong you believe the statement is. 

A high score reflects a more supportive position and a low score reflects a more neutral position. Although you can choose to score the statements yourself, you can achieve a lower bias by employing the consensus of a study group. 

For example, the scores assigned to the questions above are 3.5, 6, 9, 7, 6.5, 5.5, & 4 respectively. 

The rank for each option must be unbiased and not based on your personal agreement or disagreement. 

4. Ask each member to assign a score

If you’ve employed the use of a study group, you should have each member score the statements based on how strong they believe them to be. You can then calculate the median score of each question and then order the statements in ascending order, from lowest median statements to highest median statements.

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How do you interpret the responses of a Thurstone scale?

Each “agree” answer must be assigned a score between 1 to 11, as discussed above, and each “disagree” must be assigned a score of 0. The final score of each respondent’s quiz represents the strength of their opinion. The higher the score, the more supportive their opinion.

Once you gather all the responses, you can analyze and interpret the data in two ways. 

  • By simple calculation or percentage: 

You can simply count the number of questions a respondent has agreed to and calculate the percentage to conclude the respondent’s attitude. For example, if the respondent agreed with 2, 3, 5, & 7 statements from the above example out of 11, then the count is 4 out of 11. The 36.36% percentage indicates that the respondent’s attitude is not favorable to the statement. 

  • Analyse the median or mean: 

Let’s say another respondent agreed with statements 2,3,5,6,& 7 out of 11. In this case, the attitude score is 6 + 9 + 6.5 + 5.5 + 4 = 31/ 5 = 6.2. 

With this, the median score is 6.2, which indicates that this respondent favors the policy. 


What are the advantages of the Thurstone scale?

Several benefits contribute to the widespread use of this type of scale. We have listed a few below: 

  1. You can write as many statements for the survey as you want using this type of scale question. 
  2. You can easily quantity the respondent’s attitude towards the subject matter without on two definite aspects of positive & negative. 
  3. The scale provides an average score for each respondent, thus allowing you to compare the result & predict the behavior of each respondent. 


What are the disadvantages of the Thurstone scale?

While there are advantages, it’s also natural for there to be cons. So here are some disadvantages you should be aware of. 

  1. The analysis of this scale is complex and time-consuming. 
  2. The respondents may leave the survey since there’s no neutral option.
  3. The rank assigned to each statement is based on an individual’s assumption.

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How does Thusrtone differ from the Likert scale?

The Likert scale can be said to complement the Turnstone scale. The Likert scale simplifies the complexity and provides more reliable data. 

The Likert scale is simple to use, requires less time for the respondent to reply, and can be analyzed quickly. This scale uses numbered scale – odd or even- to collect responses. This allows for unbiased insight. 

Thurstone scale is time-consuming, doesn’t have a neutral option, and data analysis can be complex. The statement on this scale is ranked by a judge which can often lead to biased judgment and gather unreliable data. 



While it might be difficult to quantify and compare opinions and attitudes, the Thurstone scale can help you overcome this. 

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