Response scales as frames of reference: The impact of frequency range on diagnostic judgements

In 2 experiments, users of a target person's report were also likely to use the range of the response alternatives as a frame of reference in evaluating the implications of the report. In Exp 1, 59 university students rated a target person on TV consumption, using either a high or a low frequency scale. In Exp 2, 67 medical doctors and 80 1st-yr medical students evaluated the severity of symptom reports in the context of high or low frequency scales. Ss drew different conclusions about the target person's personality (Exp 1) or the severity of the target person's medical condition (Exp 2) from the same absolute frequency report, depending on the range of the response scale on which the frequency was checked. Experienced medical doctors were as likely to be influenced by scale range as 1st-yr medical students, suggesting the need for knowledge to be accessible at the time of judgment to attenuate the impact of the response scale. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved)