Did You Misclick? Reversing 5-Point Satisfaction Scales Causes Unintended Responses

CHI '24: Proceedings of the 2024 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems


When fielding satisfaction questions, survey platforms offer the option to randomly reverse the response options. In this paper, we provide evidence that the use of this option leads to biased results. In Study 1, we show that reversing vertically oriented response options leads to significantly lower satisfaction ratings – from 90 to 82 percent in our case. Study 2 had survey respondents verify their response and found that on a reversed scale, the very-dissatisfied option was selected unintentionally in about half of the cases. The cause, shown by Study 3, is that survey respondents expect the positive option at the top and do not always pay sufficient attention to the question, combined with the similar spelling of satisfied and dissatisfied. To prevent unintentional responses from biasing the results, we recommend keeping the positive option at the top in vertically-oriented scales with visually-similar endpoint labels.