Likert Scale - Dr. Rensis Likert Pronunciation

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Likert Scale - Dr. Rensis Likert Pronunciation

Post by rogerwimmer » Sat Feb 18, 2012 3:48 pm

Doc: I know many readers might not be interested in this question, but it’s important to me and I would like to know if you would help. I’m taking a research class now and the professor has mentioned the Likert Scale (the 1-5 scale) many times, and we will be studying it soon in class.

My question is how to pronounce Likert. I thought it was pronounced LICK-ert, but my professor pronounces it as LIKE-ert. Do you know which pronunciation is correct? I don’t want to say anything to him. Thanks in advance. - Gerry

Gerry: Sure, I’ll be happy to help and I’ll do that by telling a short story, but before I get to that, I need to provide a little background on the Likert Scale for the readers who aren’t familiar with the measurement tool.

There are many types of rating scales used in all types of behavioral research, including the mass media, but there are three that are used most often: the 5-point scale, or Likert Scale, developed by Dr. Rensis Likert (1903-1981) in 1932; the 7-point scale, or Semantic Differential Scale, developed by Osgood, Suci, and Tannenbaum in 1957; and the 10-point scale, which seems to have appeared from outer space because it isn’t attributed to any person or team of statisticians or researchers. (Anyone familiar with my research knows that I prefer to use a 10-point rating scale, but I’ll save that discussion for another time.)

OK, that’s a little background on rating scales, so it’s on to my short story about how to pronounce Dr. Rensis Likert’s name.

I received my Ph.D. from Bowling Green State University (Ohio) in 1976. One professor there was Dr. Ray Tucker, who was not only my professor for several classes and independent studies, but he was also my program advisor and my Dissertation director (both significant for a Ph.D.). Dr. Tucker, who unfortunately passed away in 2007, was a genius in research and statistics (both univariate and multivariate), and I attribute most of what I know about research and statistics to Dr. Tucker.

Anyway, early in the quarter in one our research classes, we were going to talk about Likert Scales. Dr. Tucker started the class and pronounced the name as LICK-ert, and all of us in the class (there were only about 10 students since Ph.D. classes are very small) looked around at each other with confused expressions “knowing” that it was pronounced LIKE-ert, not LICK-ert. After Dr. Tucker said the name a few more times, he looked at us and said, “What’s the problem?”

I said, “Dr. Tucker, it’s pronounced LIKE-ert, not LICK-ert.” He said something like, “Do all of you think LIKE-ert is correct?” The other students nodded in agreement.

We were in a classroom that had a telephone with one of the (then) new types of speakerphones attached to it – like this.

After seeing all the Ph.D. students nod their heads in agreement about the pronunciation of Likert, Dr. Tucker reached for the phone, pushed the speakerphone button, and dialed a number. The conversation that took place went something like this:


“Hello...Rensis here.” (WHAT? It was Dr. Rensis Likert! We were stunned. One of the godfathers of behavioral research was on the other end of the phone!)

Dr. Tucker: “Rensis. Ray Tucker here.”

Dr. Likert: “Hi, Ray. Nice to hear from you again. What can I do for you?”

Dr. Tucker: “I’m in a Ph.D. class and we’re discussing the pronunciation of your name.”

Dr. Likert: “Oh, I can imagine how that’s going. I assume you want me to tell your students how my last name is pronounced.”

Dr. Tucker: “Yes, they need to hear it from you.”

Dr. Likert: “Students....I know Dr. Tucker knows the correct pronunciation, but you probably don’t believe him. My last name is pronounced LICK-ert, not LIKE-ert. Dr. Tucker is correct, so do any of you have any questions?”


Dr. Tucker: “Thanks Rensis. I don’t see any hands raised to ask you a question. All the students are just looking at each other.”

Dr. Likert: “OK. Good bye for now, Ray. Rensis LICK-ert signing off.”

So . . . that’s a long story to give you your answer. Show this to your professor and if he has any questions, tell him to call me. I’ll straighten him out.

By the way, we never again questioned Dr. Tucker’s pronunciation of a word or name.

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Roger Wimmer is owner of Wimmer Research and senior author of Mass Media Research: An Introduction, 10th Edition.

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Re: Likert Scale - Dr. Rensis Likert Pronunciation

Post by rogerwimmer » Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:44 pm

Dr Wimmer: Here is an update for you. I printed your response and took it to my professor who is usually in his office on Saturday. After he read what you wrote, he said that although he doesn’t know you, he has heard of you and will from now on pronounce Dr. Likert’s name as LICK-ert. Thanks for your help in solving this problem. - Gerry

Gerry: You’re welcome, but the only thing I did was write what Dr. Likert said, so he, in absentia, solved the problem, not me. I’m glad things worked out.
Roger Wimmer is owner of Wimmer Research and senior author of Mass Media Research: An Introduction, 10th Edition.

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