Survey questions worded with the verb ‘forbid’ prove not to elicit opposite answers to equivalent questions worded with the verb ‘allow’ (Rugg 1941). Although ‘forbid’ and ‘allow’ are generally considered each other’s counterparts, respondents rather answer ‘no, not forbid’ than ‘yes, allow’. In order to find out which question is a more valid measure of the underlying attitude, this asymmetry in the answers has to be explained. Experiments show that the asymmetry arises because respondents translate similar attitudes differently into the answering options to forbid/allow questions are equally valid, but the way the attitudes are expressed on the answering scale differs due to the use of ‘forbid’ or ‘allow’. How does this translation process work? The leading hypothesis in forbid/allow research predicts that respondents holding moderate opinions feel that ‘yes forbid’ and ‘yes allow’ are very extreme, causing moderate respondents to prefer answering ‘not forbid’, or ‘not allow’. This article presents the results of 10 experiments investigating the meanings of the answering options to forbid/allow questions. Extreme connotations are shown to only provide part of the explanation for the occurrence of the forbid/allow asymmetry. In order to describe the answering process for forbid/allow questions, well-definedness of meanings proves to be an important additional factor. The meanings of answering options to allow questions are ill-defined compared of those to forbid questions, which causes allow questions to be less homogeneous measures of the underlying attitude than forbid questions.
Quality & Quantity – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 24, 2005
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