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Scale-related Pet-Peeves

Blog #1

Stop Recreating the Wheel!

By that I mean that it is unjustifiable to make yet another measure of a construct when several other acceptable measures already exist and can be used. This problem was noticed from Day 1 when Paul Hensel and I began working on the first volume of the series. Too many researchers who published in our field’s top journals were not using established scales in their studies. Instead, new measures of exactly the same construct were being created over and over again. In fact, we hoped the book would be one of the main ways to help minimize the problem because in the days before the web, it was very difficult to find scales that had been used previously. We thought that by offering a publication where measures of hundreds of constructs scales could easily be found would reduce the number of times researchers would develop a new scale for a construct for which one or more acceptable scales were available. While I suppose we have helped many scholars find scales that they ultimately used (based on the citations of the books and sales of the five volumes), I am constantly discouraged to see more recreations of the wheel. I monitor six of the top marketing journals on a regular basis. That means I look at every page of every article in every issue to see if a multi-item summated scale was used. For the first few four volumes, we were likely to review every scale even if it was the umpteenth measure of construct X. As the work mounted and I became the sole author with Volume 5, I decided to be a bit more picky about what I reviewed in order to speed up the work. Then, as I began Volume 6, I made a more radical change. I decided not to review a scale if several other acceptable measures of the construct were already available.

For those who say that one set of items is pretty much the same as another, I’d say “prove it; the responsibility is yours to show that a new scale of X produces equivalent results as a previous measure.” Different scales can lead to different results. In fact, I once published an article (Bruner 2003) that showed how different sets of scales could lead to different conclusions. I was inspired to do that by something that noted psychometrician Ira Bernstein once wrote. He said that a fundamental scientific principle is that an observation made by one researcher should be independently verifiable by other researchers and this “principle is violated if scientists can disagree about the measure” (Nunnally & Bernstein 1994, p. 6). I fully understand that there are going to be differences of opinion about how to measure constructs but surely we can’t justify researchers generating measures willy-nilly and assuming the measures are equivalent to each another.

I could go on and on but will allow interested readers who want more details to consult my articles on the topic.


Bruner II, Gordon C. (2003), “Combating Scale Proliferation,” Journal of Targeting, Measurement & Analysis, 11 (4), 362-372.

Bruner II, Gordon C. and Maryon F. King (2003), “Assessing Progress in Advertising-Related Scale Development and Usage,” The Journal of Applied Business Research, 19 (2), 97-106.

Bruner II, Gordon C. (1998), “Standardization & Justification: Do Aad Scales Measure Up?” Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising, 20 (Spring), 1-18.

Bruner II, Gordon C. and Paul J. Hensel (1993), "Multi-Item Scale Usage in Marketing Journals: 1980 to 1989," Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 21 (Fall), 339-344.