Survey Guidelines

Short Scales for the Measurement of Psychological Characteristics

Survey instruments for the measurement of psychological characteristics have been employed in social science surveys for some years now. Data on personality-related psychological concepts, in particular, are collected in surveys such as the European Social Survey (ESS), the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), the German Longitudinal Election Study (GLES), and the German General Social Survey (ALLBUS). These variables include, for example, values, life satisfaction, locus of control, and intelligence. Scientists from various disciplines can use psychological concepts to better explain and understand scientifically and socially interesting phenomena and processes. Several studies have demonstrated that psychological variables make a substantial and supplementary contribution to the explanation and prediction of social science concepts such as educational attainment, voting behaviour, and physical health.

The majority of classical measurement instruments in the area of personality psychology were developed with the aim of ensuring a high level of measurement precision with regard to individual diagnostic decisions. For this reason, personality assessment instruments comprise, as a rule, a large number of questions or items. Because of their length, they are not suitable for use in social science surveys as the majority of these surveys are subject to considerable time-related and financial restrictions. The need for short, reliable, and valid measures of personality for social science surveys is correspondingly high. Against this background, GESIS makes available a series of carefully constructed, tested, and standardised short scales for the measurement of psychological characteristics. These scales and further information can be found on the following website: