Skip to main content

semantic differential

semantic differential A method devised by C. E. Osgood and his colleagues to study the connotative meaning of cultural objects, using a set of bipolar rating scales (for example sweet/sour, good/bad), in order to elicit data (see C. Osgood, and G. Suci , and P. Tannenbaum , The Measurement of Meaning, 1957
). When scales are intercorrelated and factor analysed, three general components repeatedly appear, both for different objects and cross-culturally: namely, evaluation, potency, and activity. The technique can be used to compare the responses of one individual to different objects, experiences, concepts, or whatever; and of groups of individuals to same stimuli. It has been used in a variety of settings including market research and therapy.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"semantic differential." A Dictionary of Sociology. . 20 Jan. 2019 <>.

"semantic differential." A Dictionary of Sociology. . (January 20, 2019).

"semantic differential." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved January 20, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.