Disfluency disrupts the confirmation bias

Chris Dean's picture

It’s quite possible I already posted this.

Hernandez, I. & Preston, J. L., (2013). Disfluency disrupts the confirmation bias. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49(1), pp 178. DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.08.010

Abstract
One difficulty in persuasion is overcoming the confirmation bias, where people selectively seek evidence that is consistent with their prior beliefs and expectations. This biased search for information allows people to analyze new information in an efficient, but shallow way. The present research discusses how experienced difficultly in processing (disfluency) can reduce the confirmation bias by promoting careful, analytic processing. In two studies, participants with prior attitudes on an issue became less extreme after reading an argument on the issues in a disfluent format. The change occurred for both naturally occurring attitudes (i.e. political ideology) and experimentally assigned attitudes (i.e. positivity toward a court defendant). Importantly, disfluency did not reduce confirmation biases when participants were under cognitive load, suggesting that cognitive resources are necessary to overcome these biases. Overall, these results suggest that changing the style of an argument's presentation can lead to attitude change by promoting more comprehensive consideration of opposing views.

Nick Shinn's picture

In other words, novelty can be persuasive.
This has long been a principle of marketing design.
Old designs wear out.
It’s hardwired into humanity, because repetitive stimuli disappear.
And adaptively, an inability to respond to a changing environment means extinction.
In sports, the same training regime will not produce optimum performance, you have to mix it up.

Chris Dean's picture

That description sounds familiar. Have I indeed posted this before? I honestly can’t remember (It’s also a very good description).

5star's picture

Stay fresh!

n.

Chris Dean's picture

Is that a yes?

Upon doing a content search on my machine, I have come across a text document with the same content, but no downloaded PDF. I don’t remember doing that either.

Strange.

oldnick's picture

Confirmation bias generally confirms other biases. People tend to value their own opinion highly. Market researchers have long know that different answers can be obtained by framing the question differently. Similarly, the manner of presentation can have an effect on how well or how badly the information is conveyed.

So: is disfluency some form of deliberately-introduced cognitive dissonance and, if so, how is this dissonance achieved?

enne_son's picture

Chris, you might be thinking of this thread: http://typophile.com/node/94174

BeauW's picture

Nick,
I think that to say "In other words, novelty can be persuasive" is not accurate to the point of the article. It is not that novelty is persuasive, but that familiarity allows this confirmation bias, and therefore novelty allows more play to the rational intelligence. It is not the novelty itself is being persuasive, but allowing a good argument a better chance of sinking in.

Novelty in advertising has a related effect, catching attention, and therefor creating a better chance for the punter to read the message.

enne_son's picture

Chris, you might have provided a link to the version available at no cost on line:
http://www.uofisocialcognitionlab.x10.mx/Papers/Hernandez_Preston_2012.pdf
The paper references or extends work reported in the
http://typophile.com/node/94174 thread I noted above.

The idea of disfluency leading to positive effects is not new. It seems to be implicit in the early 20th-century notion of ostranenie (literally: making strange) or defamiliarization associated with the Russian literary critic Viktor Borisovich Shklovsky. See:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamiliarization
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Shklovsky

I would have some questions about the use of ‘[dis]fluent’ in these studies. For example, is it meant in roughly the same sense as by the authors of the paper featured in this thread:
http://typophile.com/node/84429

Thomas Phinney's picture

"It is not the novelty itself is being persuasive, but allowing a good argument a better chance of sinking in."

That's the argument made by the researchers. But the summary provided supports Nick's take just as well as theirs. Theirs has an interesting theoretical basis.

Now, one could design an experiment specifically to distinguish the two hypotheses. For example, what if the question at hand is one for which the subjects have no preconception whatsoever?

I suspect Nick is right, in part based on the recent study involving remembering information about imaginary alien species.

timd's picture

Is 12pt TNR (or 16 in the later method) on its own enough to ensure fluency? There doesn’t seem to be a description of the setting or the presentation of the text.

Perhaps if they had set the abstract disfluently someone would have picked up the ambiguity/error in the third sentence.

Tim

oldnick's picture

It is not that novelty is persuasive, but that familiarity allows this confirmation bias, and therefore novelty allows more play to the rational intelligence.

Sorry, but that notion is preposterous. Perception—in the natural order of reception, perception, conception—occurs at the pre-rational level; in other words, information from the five senses is processed before the Sixth Sense—the Sense of Self—enters into the picture.

And, once again: is disfluency some form of deliberately-introduced cognitive dissonance and, if so, how is this dissonance achieved?

Chris Dean's picture

“…the recent study involving remembering information about imaginary alien species.

Diemand-Yauman, C., Oppenheimer, D. M. & Vaughan, E. B. (2011). Fortune favours the bold (and the italicized): Effects of disfluency on educational outcomes. Cognition, 118(1), 111–115.

BeauW's picture

I was actually just trying to restate the thesis of the article, not argue for or against it. But that being said, I have to say i find the idea worth pursuing. I would think that if 'novelty sells', then the effect really is pre-cognitive, and is just a question of catching attention.

Perception—in the natural order of reception, perception, conception—occurs at the pre-rational level; in other words, information from the five senses is processed before the Sixth Sense—the Sense of Self—enters into the picture.

Are you saying that a message is received before the person thinks about it?
The dissonance is achieved by delay.

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