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Rating of perceived effort but relative to what?

A comparison between imposed and self-selected anchors


  • Tomer Malleron Department of Health Promotion, School of Public Health, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel
  • Itai Har-Nir Department of Health Promotion, School of Public Health, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel
  • Andrew D. Vigotsky Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Statistics, Northwestern University, Evanston, USA
  • Israel Halperin Department of Health Promotion, School of Public Health, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel



Rating of perceived effort (RPE), maximal voluntary contraction (MVC), Anchoring procedure


Purpose: Collecting reliable and valid rating of perceived effort (RPE) data requires properly anchoring the scales’ upper limits (i.e., the meaning of 10 on a 0–10 scale). Yet, despite their importance, anchoring procedures remain understudied and theoretically underdeveloped. Here we propose a new task-based anchoring procedure that distinguishes between imposed and self-selected anchors. In the former, researchers impose on participants a specific task as the anchor; in the latter, participants choose the most effortful task experienced or imaginable as the anchor. We compared the impact of these conceptually different anchoring procedures on RPE.

Methods: Twenty-five resistance-trained participants (13 females) attended a familiarization and two randomized experimental sessions. In both experimental sessions, participants performed non-fatiguing and fatiguing isometric maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) protocols with the squat followed by the gripper or vice versa. After each MVC, participants reported their RPE on a 0–10 scale relative to an imposed anchor or to a self-selected anchor.

Results: In the non-fatiguing condition, imposed anchors yielded greater RPEs than self-selected anchors for both the squat [on average, 9.4 vs. 5.5; Δ(CI95%)=3.9 (3.2, 4.5)] and gripper [9.4 vs. 3.9; Δ=5.5 (4.7, 6.3)]. Similar results were observed in the fatiguing condition for both the squat [9.7 vs. 6.9; Δ=2.8 (2.1, 3.5)] and gripper [9.7 vs. 4.5; Δ=5.2 (4.3, 5.9)].

Conclusions: We found large differences in RPE between the two anchors. These findings provide a basis for development and refinement of anchoring procedures and highlight the importance of justifying, and consistently applying the chosen anchors.


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2022-09-30 — Updated on 2023-01-26