A few days ago, as I was surfing along the message board The Local, I ended up on this survey (which I can't take, cos I'm too old, *pout*). So I browsed the different questionnaires, to see.

One thing struck me about the value scales (1 to 5) and how the 1 was to represent the worst and the 5 the best. I was wondering whether this was not problematic for some people. The Germans, for example, have a value scale of 1 to 6 in school, 1 being the best, and 6 being the worst. The French note system goes on a scale of 10 or 20, 0 being the worst and 10 or 20 being the best. I've relaised that when I take a poll, I tend to be confused when the answers proposed use number scales that don't fit with my way of grading (ie. the best being the highest number, the worst the smallest). This said, it is usually easier to get away from my inherited scale values as there are rarely scales over 10 or 20 levels. So I asked my partner whether a value scale of 1 to 5 would confuse him if it was backwards (he's German). He said that as long as there weren't 6 levels, he would actually expect to use 1 as the worst value, I would have thought the contrary.

A label from Stiftung WarentestIn the same line fo thought, I've always found it very funny that one of the most common marketing argument here in Germany is the result that a product got at the Stiftung Wahrentest. On products, you find a little label[1] that tells you how well the product fared in the tests. These tests rate products following the German grading system. I must say that at the beginning, in my French mind, a product which got a note of 2 didn't really prompt a positive reaction, on the contrary. I also realize that the subtleties of the number after the coma are lost on me. The French system usually only allows for half points, so a 2,4 translates automatically into a 2,5 for me, or a 1,6 into a 2, etc.

What's interesting here is how values which are in objectively the same (a 2 is a two, whatever the language and the country) are affected by subjective and unconscious values shaped by education, language and culture.

As an aside note, a search through the different possible layouts of this label is also very interesting, as it shows that depending on the note the product obtained, the actual number will be displayed or not. When a note of 1 to 2 is obtained, the number is usually displayed, when the note is closer to 2,4, it's usally "forgotten". Nice marketing trick.


[1] label image from Wikipedia with a funky licence