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Scaling the smileys: A multicountry investigation

Aaron Sedley
Joseph M. Paxton
The Essential Role of Language in Survey Research, RTI Press (2020), pp. 231-242


Contextual user experience (UX) surveys are brief surveys embedded in a website or mobile app (Sedley & Müller, 2016). In these surveys, emojis (e.g., smiley faces, thumbs, stars), with or without text labels, are often used as answer scales. Previous investigations in the United States found that carefully designed smiley faces may distribute fairly evenly along a numerical scale (0–100) for measuring satisfaction (Sedley, Yang, & Hutchinson, 2017). The present study investigated the scaling properties and construct meaning of smiley faces in six countries. We collected open-ended descriptions of smileys to understand construct interpretations across countries. We also assessed numeric meaning of a set of five smiley faces on a 0–100 range by presenting each face independently, as well as in context with other faces with and without endpoint text labels.