The Relational Mobility Scale

Here is the relational mobility scale in full, reproduced from Thomson et al. (2018). Scroll down to download the scale translations in 22 languages.

How much do you feel the following statements accurately describe people in the immediate society in which you live (such as your friends and acquaintances, colleagues in your workplace, and people in your neighborhood etc.)? Regarding those people around you, please indicate to what extent you agree or disagree with the following statements.

NOTE: The term “groups” in some items refers to collections of people who know each other or who share the same goals, such as friendship groups, hobby groups, sports teams, and companies.

rmob1 | They (the people around you) have many chances to get to know other people.
rmob2 | It is common for these people to have a conversation with someone they have never met before.
rmob3 | They are able to choose, according to their own preferences, the people whom they interact with in their daily life.
rmob4 | There are few opportunities for these people to form new friendships. (reverse)
rmob5 | It is uncommon for these people to have a conversation with people they have never met before. (reverse)
rmob6 | If they did not like their current groups, they could leave for better ones.
rmob7 | It is often the case that they cannot freely choose who they associate with. (reverse)
rmob8 | It is easy for them to meet new people.
rmob9 | Even if these people were not completely satisfied with the group they belonged to, they would usually stay with it anyway. (reverse)
rmob10 | They are able to choose the groups and organizations they belong to.
rmob11 | Even if these people were not satisfied with their current relationships, they would often have no choice but to stay with them. (reverse)
rmob12 | Even though they might rather leave, these people often have no choice but to stay in groups they don’t like. (reverse)

1 = Strongly disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Slightly disagree, 4 = Slightly agree, 5 = Agree, 6 = Strongly agree

About the Relational Mobility Scale

The relational mobility scale (Thomson et al., 2018) is a 12-item Likert scale measuring societal or contextual relational mobility. Here’s some things to keep in mind about the relational mobility scale.

Reverse items and scoring

Reverse items: Note that items rmob4, rmob5, rmob7, rmob9, rmob11, and rmob12 are negatively keyed, so you’ll need to reverse the scoring on those items before you compute a respondent’s relational mobility score. Here’s some SPSS syntax that will do the job (click here for txt version).

Scoring: Relational mobility scores are generally computed using the mean response across all items (after reversing the negatively keyed items). Here’s some SPSS syntax that will do the job (click here for txt version).

Factor Structure

Most studies (including Thomson et al., 2018) find that there are two correlated sub-concepts in the relational mobility scale: A) opportunities to meet new people and B) freedom of choice in interpersonal relationships.

This structure is very resilient, even when the scale is used in a variety of societies. Thomson et al. (2018) found that the scale showed partial scalar measurement invariance across the 39 countries and regions they used it in.

The scale is also balanced – it has an equal number of positively and negatively keyed items. This means that response bias such as acquiescence and extreme responding can be relatively easily accounted for during analysis. Thomson et al. (2018), for example, modeled response style as a separate factor during their multi-group CFA [following Billiet & McClendon’s (2000) method].

Figure S4 from Thomson et al. (2018) demonstrating the factor structure of the 12-item relational mobility scale, including a common method bias factor. Click on image to take a look at it in the PNAS paper.

Perceptions or reality

Strictly speaking, the scale measures how relationally mobile respondents perceive others around them to be. Even so, peoples’ perceptions of relational mobility appear to be quite accurate; increasing scores on the relational mobility scale correlate with other variables that reflect freedom and opportunity for movement between relationships in a society: residential mobility (see FAQ), justifiability of divorce, number of past romantic relationships, etc.

We go into this in detail in our open access 2018 PNAS paper about relational mobility, here.

Societal relational mobility

The relational mobility scale doesn’t measure how relationally mobile a person is individually. It asks about people around the respondent; about a person’s immediate social environment. The scale is used to measure relational mobility at the societal or social context level, so this focus on the surrounding social environment helps lower confounds like a respondent’s popularity, attractiveness, and personality. Naturally, an outgoing person is going to have more opportunity and relative freedom to meet new people than someone who is more reserved (see Yuki et al., 2007, for more on this point).


Thomson, R., Yuki, M., Talhelm, T., Schug, J., Kito, M., Ayanian, A., Becker, J., Becker, M., Chiu, C. Y., Choi, H., Ferreira, C. M., Fülöp, M., Gul, P., Houghton-Illera, A. M., Jaosoo, M., Jong, J., Kavanagh, C., Khutkyy, D., Manzi, C., Marcinkowska, U. M., Milfont, T. L., Neto, F., von Oertzen, T., Pliskin, R., San Martin, A., Singh, P., Visserman, M. L. (2018). Relational mobility predicts social behaviors in 39 countries and is tied to historical farming and threat. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1713191115