Gunnar Borg

Professor emeritus

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Arbetar vid Psykologiska institutionen
Besöksadress Frescati hagväg 14
Postadress Psykologiska institutionen 106 91 Stockholm

Om mig

Most of my time I devote to research and applications in psychology, medicine, sports, ergonomics and human factors.


The research deals with theories, methods and experiments in perception and psychophysics, and psychophysiology. New methods are developed to determine the magnitude of an experience from simple sensations to more complex experiences such as subjective somatic symptoms, emotions and perceptions of physical and mental difficulty.

The concept of perceived exertion was introduced half a century ago and an operational definition presented with methods to measure different aspects of perceived effort, strain and fatigue. One very common method is the RPE-Scale for "Ratings of Perceived Exertion" ("the Borg Scale") officially now: the "Borg RPE Scale®". Stevens' "Ratio (R) scaling methods for determinations of S-R-functions have been improved in order not only to obtain relative functions but also direct ("absolute") levels of intensity. This was done by placing verbal anchors, from simple category (C) scales (rank order scales) such as "very weak", "moderate", "strong" etc at the best possible position on a ratio scale, a "CR-scale", covering the total subjective dynamic range, so that a congruence in meaning was obtained between the numbers and the anchors.

Psychophysical scaling methods are also used in quantitative semantics, in order to estimate "interpretation" and "preciseness" of words, e.g. adjectives and adverbs. A related problem of epistemological interest concerns intersubjectivity and the possibility to make valid interindividual and intermodal comparisons. "Borg's Range Model" is then used, according to which a schematized conception (e.g. of a maximal perceived exertion) is used, and at the end of the total dynamic range set interindividually "equal" (similar) for proximal stimulations.

The first CR-Scale constructed in the 1970s is the ten-graded "Borg CR10 Scale®" with ten as the main intersubjectively valid anchor. The scale gives possibilities to use numbers above ten, and also to use decimals. It is a general scale for different kinds of experiences. A more fine-graded CR-Scale is the "Borg CR100 Scale®" (also called the "centiMax Scale") constructed by G. Borg together with the daughter Elisabet Borg, PhD and senior lecturer, Stockholm University. This scale has a great potential for most psychophysical and psychophysiological determinations.

A current research project together with some specialists in medicine (prof. K. Larsson, Karolinska Inst. head of the project) concern studies of breathlessness and dyspnea, leg fatigue and chest pain in healthy people and patients with COPD. CR-scaling is then used for determinations of the magnitudes of these symptoms during ergometer tests, how they change during the test and their quantitative interrelations. The purpose is to obtain an improved tool in clinical diagnostics and rehabilitation.

A simple home test of aerobic capacity has been constructed. The test is carried out by having persons run or walk a certain distance about 800m (or half a mile) submaximally two times with different speed controlled by themselves subjectively. No special apparatuses are needed except a watch. The test is a good alternative to the six minute walk test.

Applications of "Borg Scales" and "Borg Perception"

The research in scaling has resulted in an unusually great amount of world-wide applications of "Borg Scales". The Borg RPE Scale® for measuring overall perceived exertion, including breathlessness and muscle fatigue, is thus used by millions of people in very many countries all over the world. This is true in clinical work test, rehabilitation and exercise prescription of many different groups of patients (See Pedersén and Saltin, 2006,; in sports for all and training of athletes according to different programs for monitoring exercise intensity. The CR scales, e.g. the "Borg CR10 Scale®", are used more and more instead of the RPE-scale in clinical tests, and in training of muscular strength, "resistance training" (See Borg, 1998 and Buckley & Borg, 2010).

Selected publications

Borg, G., & Borg, E. (2008). Methods for measuring intensity of experience. The Borg CR Scales® Folder.

Borg, E. (2007). On Perceived Exertion and its Measurement. Doctoral dissertation. Department of Psychology, Stockholm University.

Borg, G. (2004). Principles in Scaling Pain and the Borg CR Scales®. Psychologica, 37, 35-47.

Borg, G., & Borg, E. (2001). A new generation of scaling methods: Level-anchored ratio scaling. Psychologica, 28, 15-45. [Fulltext, PDF, with kind permission from Psychologica]

Borg, G. (1998). Borg's Perceived Exertion and Pain Scales. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. [Fulltext, with kind permission from Human Kinetics, PDF, ca 12 MB]

Borg, G. (1994). Psychophysical scaling: An overview. In: J. Boivie, P. Hansson, & U. Lindblom (Eds.), Touch, Temperature, and Pain in Health and Disease: Mechanisms and Assessments. Progress in Pain Research and Management, Vol. 3 (p. 27-39). Seattle, USA: IASP Press.

For some more recent publications in DiVA, please see below.

Borg's abstracts in the Annual Report database.

Awards and prizes

In 1998 I received the award by the International Association for Applied Psychology, "for exceptional contributions to the advancement of the science of psychology internationally".

The same year I was also honored with the Award for scientific contributions and applications in ergonomy by the Nordic Ergonomic Society.

During the 27th International Congress of Psychology, 2000, I was honored with a special symposium: "The Gunnar Borg Symposium on Psychophysical Scaling".

The same year, I was elected "Honorary Member" of the Swedish Society for Lung Medicine, and also honored by the Swedish Society of Sports Medicine.

In 2002 I was given a special Prize in Sport Sciences to a Swedish scientist.

During the autumn 2005 I gave a keynote lecture for the British Association for Cardiac Rehabilitation, a seminar for lung-doctors in London, an honorary lecture during the annual Swedish congress in medicine, 2006, a keynote presentation for Danish lung-doctors and a lecture for professors, doctor and master students in Vilnius, Lithuania for the International School for Advanced Methods in Biophysics, 2007.

In 2008 I was elected "Honorary Member" of the Swedish Society of Sports Medicine.

I am a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and several international associations.

In 2009 I was elected "Doctor honoris causa" in medicine at Umeå University, Sweden.

Recommendations to use a "Borg Scale" is given by many professional societies, e.g. American Heart Association, American Thoracic Society, American College of Sports Medicine, British Association for Cardiac Rehabilitation

These scales can be obtained from the firm: "Borg Perception", Gunnar Borg, Rädisvägen 124, 165 73 Hässelby, Sweden. Phone 46-8-271426. E-mail:


I urval från Stockholms universitets publikationsdatabas
  • 2014. Gunnar Borg, Elisabet Borg. Fechner Day 2014, 10-10

    There are many demands on a good pain-scale. It should be possible to: use for all kinds of pain; determine direct levels of intensity over the total range; treat responses with statistical methods, preferably parametric statistics; study degrees of changes with stimulus intensity, medication and time; make interindividual, intermodal and psychophysiological comparisons; avoid ceiling and floor effects; make estimations and also productions; determine psychophysical S-R-functions, possible to describe with a general equations as, e.g., R=a+c(S-b)^n, where a is the basic “noise” at rest  (or the absolute threshold), and b is the starting point of the function; make two-way communication; handle round off tendencies; use internationally. To meet these demands the scale must be constructed according to basic psychophysical and linguistic knowledge, and tested in relevant experiments. To cover the total subjective range there is a need of a number variation from 0 to 50 or a little more, about 26. Several anchors should be used that people understand very well, and that are placed correctly. Most existing scales do not fulfill these demands. A common drawback is that there is a too limited range, or a maximal endpoint defined as “Highest (or Worst) Imaginable”, which is not a schematized conception and problematic for interindividual comparisons. Examples are the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS), and is the "Labeled Magnitude Scale" (LMS) for oral sensation. On the LMS verbal anchors are placed to give ratio data, but “Strong” is 34.7, “Very strong” 52,5. For general usage, e.g., in two-way communication for prescription of exercise, this is not good, nor does the scales facilitate predictions of max-levels from sub-max estimations. The best scales are the Borg CR Scales® (CR10 and CR100). In these scales quantitative semantics is used by applying ratio scaling to determine interpretation, meaning position in the range for congruence between anchors (labels) and numbers, and preciseness meaning interindividual agreement. It is especially important that the anchors for Zero and Maximal refer to schematized conceptions. A maximal magnitude is defined as a maximal perceived exertion and effort, for example a maximal heaviness. These ideas have been presented during several ISP meetings by G. Borg, last time in Freiburg 2013. The CR10 has been used in many studies, e.g., during tests of functional capacity and chest pain, and muscular-skeletal pain. The CR100 scale has, however, a greater potential as a general scale making possible determinations of most kinds of perceptual magnitudes. An advantage to the CR10 is that decimals need not be used and that the dynamic range is bigger and more in accordance with the psychophysical demands. The extra constants in the power function can then better reflect the true sensory processes.

  • 2013. Elisabet Borg, Gunnar Borg. Applied Ergonomics 44 (5), 835-840

    Level-anchored ratio scaling, such as the Borg CR10 scale (R) and the Borg CR100 scale (R), uses verbal anchors in congruence with numbers to give ratio data together with natural levels of intensity. This presupposes that the anchors possess natural positions in the subjective dynamic range and also numerical inter-relations. In an experiment, subjects had to produce a force of handgrip corresponding to their conception of Strong, followed by a Maximal performance. By using the previously found relationship between Strong and Maximal of 1:2 together with knowledge of the exponent in the power S-R-function (R = c x S-n) for grip strength, n = 1.8, predictions of individual maximal performances were obtained. The predicted values correlated 0.76 with, and deviated only 3% (ns) from, actual maximal performances of grip strength. This result as previously also found for aerobic capacity gives a strong support for the use of verbal anchors, so common in category scaling, also in ratio scaling and that the Borg CR-scales fulfill the requirements for ratio scales. For estimation of muscular strength, such as grip strength, this present study points to the value of using submaximal determinations as a compliment to maximal performances (e.g., to obtain measures of functional capacity). The results also support the increasingly common use of the CR-methodology in other ergonomic settings concerning suitable design of tools and equipment.

  • 2013. Elisabet Borg, Gunnar Borg. Fechner Day 2013, 97-97

    Pain is one of the most common symtoms reported clinically. Apart from the Visual Analogue scale, several rating scales are used varying in degree of interpretability and suitability for various types of pain. One scale often used, especially for children, is the Wong–Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale where pain is expressed in six drawn faces varying in expression from (1) a smiling face denoting “no hurt” to (6) a crying face for “hurts worst”. Two experiments were carried out. Firstly, 12 university professors of psychology (8 men and 4 women, 50–79 yrs) answered where (in what face) they judged that pain with certainty started. Three answered that pain started in the sixth face. Two said that no face showed pain and the rest said that the dimension shown was degree of happiness-sadness. However, if the intensity of pain was estimated as if using cross-modality matching (sadness to pain), three said face no. 4, one no. 4-5, one no. 4,5, or 6, and two said face number 5 (median = 4.5). Secondly, sixteen university students (4 men and 12 women, mean age = 27.2, SD = 7.4 yrs) answered the same question as above and then also used the Borg CR100 (centiMax) Scale®  , a general 0—100 intensity Category-Ratio scale for most kinds of subjective measurement3 , to scale the pain intensity expressed in each of the six faces (presented twice in a randomized order in a Powerpoint presentation). Pain was “with certainty” judged to start at the fifth face, and several participants scaled the first two faces as “zero pain”. A continuous progression of pain intensity for the six faces was on the average obtained with the CR100 scale: medians = 0.0, 0.5, 11, 31, 48, 72 centiMax. Thus, expressed with the verbal labels on the CR100 scale, the first two faces were below “Minimal”, which indicates that these faces were not judged to show any pain, the third face was just above “Weak” (13), the fourth face just above “Moderate” (25), the 5th face just below “Strong” (50) and the 6th face was just below “Very strong” (70). The conclusion was that the faces only with hesitation can be used to estimate pain. The last face was not judged to show more than a very strong pain, thus causing a restriction of range and a ceiling effect. Aproblem with these kinds of scales is poor congruence between pictures, verbal labels and numbers.

  • 2012. Elisabet Borg, Gunnar Borg. Proceedings of Fechner Day 28, 143-146

    In some sports, as for example in diving, performance is measured as a subjectively evaluated artistic gestalt. The purpose of this study was to compare the traditional scale used in competitive diving with the Borg CR100 scale®, a scale where categorical expressions are placed where they perceptually belong on a ratio scale (e.g., G. Borg and E. Borg, 2001). Two internationally recognized Swedish judges volunteered as subjects and judged a sample of 45 videotaped dives, both with the traditional scale and with the CR scale. The results show that the Borg CR100 scale® worked at least equally well as the traditional scale, even though there might have been some tendency for translation between scales.

  • 2011. John P. Buckley, Gunnar A. V. Borg. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism 36 (5), 682-692

    This study is the first to apply Borg's psychophysical equation to measuring responses to strength training with weights machines. Theoretical constructs of Borg's scales were assessed in younger and older adults to estimate the appropriate load and number of repetitions required to meet recommended practice guidelines. A younger group (YG; 20 males, 20 females; aged 19-38 years) and older group (OG; 13 males, 13 females; aged 50-75 years) participated in 3 experiments. Experiment 1: YG performed 2-repetitions of incremented loads during triceps-elbow extensions and knee extensions to level 7 on Borg's CR10 Scale. Experiment 2: YG (n = 16) then performed 12-repetitions at the loads from experiement 1 that elicited CR10 ratings 1.5, 3.0, and 5.0. Experiment 3: OG performed 15-repetitions of lat-pull and leg press at 15-repetition maximum (RM) load. In experiments 2 and 3, CR10 or Borg RPE were measured every 2 repetitions. Experiment 1 revealed classic psychophysical response growth exponents between 1.1 and 1.8, which were greater in arms than legs (p < 0.001) and in females (p < 0.001). Theoretical estimates of 1RM were derived from the growth curves for the weights eliciting CR10 ratings of 1.5, 3, and 5. CR10 ratings of 3 to 6 fell within estimates of 40%-70% 1RM. Experiments 2 and 3 revealed, for constant load exercise over time (12 and 15 repetitions) from an initial CR10 rating of 4 to 6, a linear increase of 1 scale point for every 3 to 4 repetitions. In conclusion, Borg's equation has been used to set theoretical estimates of a %1RM. Relevant to current practice guidelines was the ability to set appropriate loads in relation to performing recommended numbers of repetitions (e. g., if the CR10 rating is >6 after 2 repetitions, the weight is likely be too heavy to complete 12 to 15 repetitions).

Visa alla publikationer av Gunnar Borg vid Stockholms universitet

Senast uppdaterad: 30 november 2018

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