Psychol Sport Exerc. 2023 May;66:102396. doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2023.102396. Epub 2023 Jan 26.
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 of the performed task (e.g., gripper MVCs anchored to a gripper MVC) 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, independent of exercises and fatigue state. These findings provide a basis for further development and refinement of anchoring procedures and highlight the importance of selecting, justifying, and consistently applying the chosen anchors.