Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hard = False

The Boston Globe ran a story today titled Easy = True.

The reporter laid out some results from the study of cognitive fluency.
Cognitive fluency is simply a measure of how easy it is to think about something, and it turns out that people prefer things that are easy to think about to those that are hard. On the face of it, it’s a rather intuitive idea. But psychologists are only beginning to uncover the surprising extent to which fluency guides our thinking, and in situations where we have no idea it is at work.
One result, one familiar to me, is that rhyming statements are more likely to be seen as true.
McGlone did a study in which he presented subjects with a series of unfamiliar aphorisms either in rhyming or nonrhyming form: “Woes unite foes,” for example, versus “Woes unite enemies.” He found that people tended to see the rhyming ones as more accurate than the nonrhyming ones, despite the fact that, substantively, the two were identical. Phrases that are easier on the ear aren’t just catchy and easy to remember, McGlone argues, they also feel inherently truer. He calls it “the rhyme-as-reason effect.”
My favorite result comes in the form of an apparent paradox:
Couples asked to come up with a short list of good qualities about each other reported higher levels of marital happiness than the other couples in the study - but so did those couples asked to come up with a long list of each other’s bad qualities.
So when your significant other is mad,
ask her to write out ONE HUNDRED bad
things about you. She'll find it hard work,
and conclude that you're not really such a big jerk.

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