The current study examines intentions behind middle category endorsement in personality assessment, and investigates person and item antecedents to these intentions. Participants verbally explained their responses to 100 personality items and completed personality, self-concept clarity, and cognitive ability measures. Talked through items were scaled with respect to clarity, complexity, and need for contextualization. Verbal protocols suggest that the predominant respondent orientation when selecting the Likert middle category is it depends. Candidate item and person antecedents indicate that middle category endorsement intentions are more closely attributable to item rather than respondent characteristics. These findings suggest that consecutive integer scoring algorithms may result in personality scale attenuation - particularly with instruments that contain indicators reflecting an ambiguous or unspecified context.
- Middle category
- Personality assessment