A few weeks ago I came across a FREAKONOMICS blog post about “the appeal of the middle.” The post referenced research findings by Paul Rodway, Astrid Schepman, and Jordana Lambert that revealed people generally prefer items located in the middle. The research showed that “…when participants were presented with a line of five pictures, they preferred pictures in the centre rather than at either end.” This trend was consistent regardless of whether the images were arranged horizontally or vertically.

How does this affect you?
___ I don't know
_×_ My survey results could be skewed
___ It doesn't affect me

Because some respondents are unknowingly drawn to centrally located answer choices, overall response data may reveal certain answers standing out as more popular than others. This is especially true for vague questions or questions respondents may not know the answer to. Middle answer trending is less likely to occur when questions require respondents to select answers based on personal experience or opinion.

To help counter the magnetism of the middle, Checkbox offers the ability to randomize answer options. Enabling this setting means available answer choices will display in a random order each time the question is displayed. Every option will have its turn in the middle! For example:

Respondent #1 may see:

Respondent #2 may see:

Respondent #3 may see:

You will find the “Randomize Options” setting on the Behavior tab in the item editor of the following multiple choice (or “MULCH” as my high school English teacher used to say) question types:

  • Radio Button Items
  • Checkbox Items
  • Drop-Down Items