Contextual Responses to Affirmative and/or Reversed-Worded Items

Ulf Böckenholt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This paper presents a systematic investigation of how affirmative and polar-opposite items presented either jointly or separately affect yea-saying tendencies. We measure these yea-saying tendencies with item response models that estimate a respondent’s tendency to give a “yea”-response that may be unrelated to the target trait. In a re-analysis of the Zhang et al. (PLoS ONE, 11:1–15, 2016) data, we find that yea-saying tendencies depend on whether items are presented as part of a scale that contains affirmative and/or polar-opposite items. Yea-saying tendencies are stronger for affirmative than for polar-opposite items. Moreover, presenting polar-opposite items together with affirmative items creates lower yea-saying tendencies for polar-opposite items than when presented in isolation. IRT models that do not account for these yea-saying effects arrive at a two-dimensional representation of the target trait. These findings demonstrate that the contextual information provided by an item scale can serve as a determinant of differential item functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)986-999
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • ability-based guessing model
  • acquiescence
  • affirmative and polar-opposite items
  • differential item functioning
  • response styles
  • yea-saying

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Applied Mathematics

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