Introducing a Method for Intervals Correction on Multiple Likert Scales: A Case Study on an Urban Soundscape Data Collection Instrument

Front Psychol. 2021 Jan 22;11:602831. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.602831. eCollection 2020.


Likert scales are useful for collecting data on attitudes and perceptions from large samples of people. In particular, they have become a well-established tool in soundscape studies for conducting in situ surveys to determine how people experience urban public spaces. However, it is still unclear whether the metrics of the scales are consistently interpreted during a typical assessment task. The current work aims at identifying some general trends in the interpretation of Likert scale metrics and introducing a procedure for the derivation of metric corrections by analyzing a case study dataset of 984 soundscape assessments across 11 urban locations in London. According to ISO/TS 12913-2:2018, soundscapes can be assessed through the scaling of 8 dimensions: pleasant, annoying, vibrant, monotonous, eventful, uneventful, calm, and chaotic. The hypothesis underlying this study is that a link exists between correlations across the percentage of assessments falling in each Likert scale category and a dilation/compression factor affecting the interpretation of the scales metric. The outcome of this metric correction value derivation is introduced for soundscape, and a new projection of the London soundscapes according to the corrected circumplex space is compared with the initial ISO circumplex space. The overall results show a general non-equidistant interpretation of the scales, particularly on the vibrant-monotonous direction. The implications of this correction have been demonstrated through a Linear Ridge Classifier task for predicting the London soundscape responses using objective acoustic parameters, which shows significant improvement when applied to the corrected data. The results suggest that the corrected values account for the non-equidistant interpretation of the Likert metrics, thereby allowing mathematical operations to be viable when applied to the data.

Keywords: likert equidistance; likert scale correction; multiple likert scales; ordinal against interval scales; soundscape indices; soundscape modeling; urban soundscape.