In graduate school, I learned about the way in which researchers use the Likert scale in order to determine personal preference. If you’re not aware, the Likert scale is the one that asks respondents how they feel about a particular idea by asking if they:
- Strongly disagree
- Neither agree nor disagree
- Strongly agree
It was named after Rensis Likert, who published a report describing its use in 1932.
But I can’t help but think that a concept like the Likert scale is so obvious and ubiquitous that no one deserves credit for it. It’s not like this scale was a breathtaking or Earth-shattering discovery. It seems more synonymous with concepts like the chair, the shoe or the rectangle. If Rensis Likert failed to publish his report, are we really expected to believe that a scale like this wouldn’t be used regularly today?
My professor explained that he who publishes first receives the credit and cited the Pythagorean Theorem, a mathematical concept credited to Pythagoras despite the fact that the Egyptians were using the theorem thousands of years earlier.
But isn’t this like my Patagonian toothfish argument? Just because researchers refer to this scale as the Likert scale and mathematicians refer to a2 + b2 = c2 as the Pythagorean Theorem doesn’t mean we must conform to these definitions. Right?
Shouldn’t we question academia more often?
As I constantly ask Elysha, where have all the rebels gone?