Journal of Applied Psychology, 1984, Vol. 69, No. 2, 359.

A FURTHER COMMENT on the Winkler, Kanouse, and Ware Method of Controlling for Acquiescent Response Bias

Now that Winkler, Kanouse, and Ware (1984) have made clear what was actually being proposed in Winkler, Kanouse, and Ware (1982), a warning against their recommended procedure is needed. If there is one solid generalization to be extracted from the acquiescence literature so far, it is that acquiescence effects in one scale may be substantially unrelated to acquiescence effects in another scale. Rorer (1965) in fact thought that meaningless acquiescence in one scale gave no prediction at all of meaningless acquiescence in another scale. Rorer's position is now known to have been too extreme, but the point remains that the relationship between acquiescence scores in different scales is at least often very low (Ray, 1983). The results of Vagt and Wendt (1978) seem to be about typical -- with correlations of around .3 reported between acquiescence scores from different balanced scales.

The procedure advocated by Winkler et al. (1984) ignores this, proceeding as if the correlation were + 1.00. It is a proposal that acquiescence effects be removed from scale B (or set of items B) by partialling out a measure of acquiescence derived from scale A. Yet the one thing we can be reasonably certain of is that acquiescence effects in scales A and B will not be the same. Therefore, this procedure cannot measure what it purports to measure. It will largely measure something specific to one scale or set of items rather than representing the measure of general or common tendency to acquiesce that Winkler et al. (1984) wish it to be.

Partialling out from scale B an acquiescence score derived from scale A may remove some of the acquiescence effects in scale B, but we know it will not remove all. Moreover, it will remove some variance specific to items in scale A one would rather not remove from B. The most effective way to control against acquiescence effects would seem to be to follow the example of Jackson (1967) and construct scales on an a priori (conceptual) basis, with full balancing against acquiescence built in from the beginning. If we have an existing body of data in which only one of two closely related scales is balanced, it may be of some interest to assume that acquiescence in the one scale will be an estimate of acquiescence in the other (e.g. Ray, 1972), but the assumption should not be considered a control of acquiescence.


Jackson, D. N. (1967). Personality Research Form Manual. New York: Research Psychologist's Press.

Ray, J.J. (1972) Militarism, authoritarianism, neuroticism and anti-social behavior. Journal of Conflict Resolution 16, 319-340.

Ray, J.J. (1983) Reviving the problem of acquiescent response bias. Journal of Social Psychology 121, 81-96.

Rorer, L. G. (1965) The great response style myth. Psychological Bulletin, 63, 129-156.

Vagt, G., & Wendt, W (1978). Akquieszenz und die Validtaet von Fragebogenskalen. Psychologische Beitraege, 20, 428-439.

Winkler, J. D., Kanouse, D. E, & Ware, J. E. (1982) Controlling for acquiescence response set in scale development Journal of Applied Psychology. 67, 555-561.

Winkler, J. D., Kanouse, D. E., & Ware, J. E. (1984). Does acquiescence distort attitude scale structure: Round and round with Ray. Journal of Applied Psychology, 69, 356-358.

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