• Mayuri Vaish

Role of word choice in altering estimation of strength levels

Updated: Dec 30, 2018

With the introduction of Frederic Bartlett’s Schema theory in cognitive psychology, prior research has shown that it is, indeed, possible to alter one’s schema simply via the phrasing of a question, which can lead to response-biases.


Aim: To investigate this bias in relation to one’s perception of the strength of an individual.


Method:16 participants were shown an image of a man, half of which were asked to estimate the maximum number of 5 kg plates that he could bench press for one repetition, while the other half were asked to estimate the maximum number of 10 kg plates bench pressed by the same man. Data was then analyzed using the Mann-Whitney Inferential Test, with a significance level of p=0.05. Answers with two options such as "2-3" or "3-4" were analyzed using its middle value, e.g. 2.5 and 3.5 respectively.


Results: Results showed that the median weight estimated by the 5 kg condition was 35 kg, while the median estimated weight for the 10 kg condition was 60 kg. However, results were not significant (p=0.22628), suggesting that these differences were due to chance alone.

Median estimated weights for participants asked using 5 kg and 10 kg

Conclusion: Although this suggested a difference between their perception of strength levels in relation to the phrasing of the question, this difference was not found to be significant by the Mann-Whitney Inferential test, and thus this difference in findings cannot be attributed to the difference in word-choice within the question.


Discussion: The reliability of this study is enhanced by the fact that a large number of factors were controlled: Educational institution, type of degree, and location of study. However, the sample size could be increased to obtain a more definite answer regarding the nature of the conclusion.