Testing construct validity of verbal versus numerical measures of preference uncertainty in contingent valuation
The numerical certainty scale (NCS) and polychotomous choice (PC) methods are two widely used techniques for measuring preference uncertainty in contingent valuation (CV) studies. The NCS follows a numerical scale and the PC is based on a verbal scale. This report presents results of two experiments that use these preference uncertainty measurement techniques. The first experiment was designed to compare and contrast the uncertainty scores obtained from the NCS and the PC method. The second experiment was conducted to test a preference uncertainty measurement scale that combines verbal expressions with numerical and graphical interpretations: a composite certainty scale (CCS). The construct validity of the certainty scores obtained from these three techniques was tested by estimating three separate ordered probit regression models. The results of the study can be summarised in three key findings. First, the PC method generates a higher proportion of ‘yes’ responses than the conventional dichotomous choice elicitation format. Second, the CCS method generates a significantly higher proportion of certain responses than the NCS and the PC methods. Finally, the NCS method performs poorly in terms of construct validity. Overall, the verbal measures perform better than the numerical measure. The CCS is a promising method to measure preference uncertainty in CV studies. To better understand its strengths and weaknesses however, further empirical applications are needed.
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