Scientific Scales and Measures

How do scientists measure human behavior and experience?

Perhaps the most common approach is to ask people questions. Multiple studies ask similar, agreed-upon questions in slightly different ways. To understand the impact of our own programs and create quizzes on Greater Good magazine, we often turn to this universe of research-validated self-report surveys, questionnaires, and experience sampling tools. For any project, choosing scales is a careful process of reading the questions themselves, examining how they relate to the themes of the project, and assessing whether the envisioned data gathered will confirm, or disconfirm your core hypotheses.

Here, as a resource, we offer a selected library of measurement tools that are commonly used in studies covered by the GGSC, both basic science (e.g. What is it?) and applied (e.g. How does it work?). The surveys, questionnaires, and self-rating approaches included have been tested in large populations for ecological validity and reliability, with peer-reviewed publications that justify their scientific value and potential impact.

Subjective Well-Being/Happiness

  • Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener, 1985): A five-item scale designed to measure global cognitive judgments of one’s life satisfaction.
  • The Subjective Happiness Scale (Lyubomirsky and Lepper, 1999): A four-item scale of global subjective happiness.
  • The Flourishing Scale (Diener, Wirtz, Tov, et al., 2009): An eight-item summary measure of the respondent’s self-perceived success in important areas such as relationships, self-esteem, purpose, and optimism.



  • The Gratitude Adjective Checklist (McCullough, Emmons, and Tsang, 2002): The GAC is a three-item measure comprised of the sum of affect adjectives: grateful, thankful, and appreciative.
  • Gratitude Resentment and Appreciation Scale–Short Form (Watkins, Woodward, Stone, and Kolts, 2003): The GRAT-Short Form is a 16-item scale designed to measure an individual’s dispositional gratitude.
  • The Gratitude Questionnaire – Six Item Form (GQ-6)
  • The Gratitude Questionnaire-Six-Item Form (McCullough, Emmons, and Tsang, 2002): The GQ-6 is a six-item self-report questionnaire designed to assess individual differences in the proneness to experience gratitude in daily life.

If you would like to recommend that we add something to this list, please email it, as well as the journal article that references it to

  • Allison Briscoe-Smith, GGSCs support was invaluable
    “The GGSC's support was invaluable in broadening my reach as an author and public speaker.”

    Allison Briscoe-Smith, assistant professor at the Wright Institute & former GGSC Graduate Fellow

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