(Note: This node requires a little bit of background reading on the semantic differential.)

Surveys that require the subject to rate a concept somewhere between two words on a semantic differential scale are a valuable tool for psychological research, and provide a relatively accurate and consistent means of measuring a subject's attitude toward the concept in question. There's just one problem: Not everyone can read.

Asking an illiterate post-WWII factory worker to rate his working conditions doesn't so much work if he can't read the scale. Nor, as Doris Wong and Connie Morain Baker understood in 1981, can young children in a hospital tell you the level of pain they're feeling without the vocabulary, knowledge of numbers, or even concept of rating systems that adults usually have.

Enter the Faces Scale.

At its simplest, a subject is asked to select the face that best describes his or her reaction to an idea, or expresses his or her feelings, from among the three shown below-- generally drawn more traditionally with the faces in circles.

:) :| :(

The more complex versions of the scale developed by Wong and Baker (known as the Wong-Baker FACES Scale-- go figure) simply include a wider range of stylized facial expressions.

As it turns out, anyone, anywhere who can see the faces can effectively communicate their responses through ratings on that scale. This makes the Faces Scale a remarkably flexible medium for surveying the feelings and responses of people who do not share the language of the interviewing psychologist.

Dr. Jack Feldman's PSY2200 class at Georgia Tech