Monday, 13 June 2016

Why do we rate everything 7? I blame teachers.

Have you ever thought it odd why when we score thing we have a tendency to disproportionately use the top end of the scale?  When you ask people to rate something on a scale of 1 to 10 the average person in most countries tend to score things 7.

 Now if we lived in a logical world you would have thought average score when we rate things on a scale of 1 to 10 should be 5.

So why do we over score average?  Well forget acquiescence bias, I have decided to blame it on our teachers!

For most of us the first exposure we get to scoring is at school, when we get our work marked.  I am sure nearly everyone can remember those anxious feelings as the teacher handed out the homework in class and you opened your homework book to see what mark you got.

In British schools we tended to get marks out of 10.   If I got 8, 9 or 10 I was happy, that was what I was aiming for.  A mark of 6 and below was a disaster as far as I was concerned and 7 seemed to be what you got most of the time. 7 was what I perceived  as average.

7 being use as average is irrational of course.  Children across the spectrum of a class should be as likely to get a score below 5 as above 5 if the process of marking was done totally rationally.  

Yet when I think back I am not sure in my whole early school life did I ever get a mark less than 5  even in English and god have you seen my spelling!

The whole processes gets corrupted by the natural eagerness of of teachers to encourage us , so everything gets shifted up a few notches from reality to make us feel good.  

As you progress through schooling system they start to use another marking system called grades and that is even more irrational as it has a built in scale heavily weighted to the positive.  Instead of being graded A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K  They used this more euphemistic version: A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-,  C+, C, C-, D, E.   Where a B could actually mean you really got a mark 5 off the top score.

I think that teachers in their efforts not to disappoint us all have totally f%*@d up our natural internal scoring mechanism…And it’s us researchers are the ones that have to deal with the consequences of all this later in life.

These experiences of being marked have anchored a scoring systems in our psyche that is near impossible to shake clear of in later life when we dish out marks ourselves in surveys.    It badly scars how we mark.  If you ask people to rate brands on a scale of 1 to 10 they nearly all get 7.  If you ask people to rate ads they get an average of 7 if you ask people to rate films 80% of score are between 3 and 4.5 stars = 7.

We so often mark things as 7 where in truth we don’t mean it, or rather when we cannot be bothered to think about it or when an experience is un-contextualized.  This means we have to do a lot more work to actually find out the truth sometimes.


  1. This is the big one. If a child isn't doing well on assignments, it's very rarely because the teacher doesn't like him, or is out to get her, or anything else subjective. It's likely because your child isn't putting in the work or needs extra assistance.
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  6. Cool site, I too question science and how we perceive the world around us.