I investigate persuasive argumentation, multilingual advertising, and cultural adaptation in persuasive effects research.
(photo credits: Suzan Zanders)
With the emergence of the internet and especially since the development of web 2.0, people increasingly communicate in an online environment. Be that as it may, this research domain has remained underexposed in Tijdschrift voor Taalbeheersing. The current special issue therefore addresses the importance of linguistic- and discourse-oriented research to explore the role of language in digital communication. On the one hand, the research papers in this issue investigate the influence of digital communication on communication styles. On the other hand, online genres are studied with large-scale corpora and (automatic) methods of analysis. We also highlight other research opportunities, such as whether digital communication changes the language use and proficiency of, for example, children and young people.
The persuasiveness of anecdotal evidence and statistical evidence has been investigated in a large number of studies, but the combination of anecdotal and statistical evidence has hardly received research attention. The present experimental study therefore investigated the persuasiveness of this combination. It also examined whether the quality of anecdotal evidence affects persuasiveness, and to what extent people comprehend the combination of anecdotal and statistical evidence. In an experiment, people read a realistic persuasive message that was relevant to them. Results showed that anecdotal evidence does not benefit from the inclusion of statistical evidence, nor from its intrinsic quality. The analysis of readers’ cognitive thoughts showed that only a minority of participants comprehended the relationship between anecdotal and statistical evidence.
In everyday situations, people regularly receive information from large groups of (lay) people and from single experts. Although lay opinions and expert opinions have been studied extensively in isolation, the present study examined the relationship between the two by asking how many lay people are needed to counter an expert opinion. A Bayesian formalisation allowed the prescription of this quantity. Participants were subsequently asked to assess how many lay people are needed in different situations. The results demonstrate that people are sensitive to the relevant factors identified for determining how many lay opinions are required to counteract a single expert opinion. People’s assessments were fairly good in line with Bayesian predictions.
According to Hall’s context theory, people from different cultures may react differently to complex messages. The current study is the first empirical examination of context theory’s role on message comprehension and appreciation. In a comparative survey-based study (N = 289), Belgian and Dutch participants judged 12 complex product advertisements with visual metaphors. As expected by context theory, perceived complexity was lower for Belgian (a higher-context culture) than for Dutch participants (a lower-context culture), and participants’ personal context culture score fully accounted for this difference. Similarly, ad liking was higher for Belgian than for Dutch participants, and again this difference was explained by context score.
In international communication, adaptation of messages to the audience’s values has been prominently studied. In advertising, a meta-analysis of experimental studies showed that ads with culturally adapted value appeals are generally more persuasive and better liked than ads with culturally unadapted value appeals. This general effect was not observed for studies with Western Europeans. One explanation may be that these studies did not examine individualism-collectivism – whereas adaptation to this dimension has been shown to be very successful. In this paper, this explanation was tested. Six experiments were conducted in which participants from Belgium, the UK or the Netherlands judged an ad with an adapted, individualistic appeal or with an unadapted, collectivistic appeal. The experiments and a subsequent meta-analysis indicate that Western Europeans are not more persuaded by the culturally adapted than by the culturally unadapted value appeals based on individualism-collectivism. This result nuances earlier findings underlining the importance of cultural value adaptation
The process of arbitration requires human reasoning and decision-making. Parties evaluate the evidence that is available to them and decide how to best present their case. Arbitrators aim to resolve a dispute by weighing the evidence and the legal arguments that are presented by each side. Researchers have underlined the importance of strong evidence in legal deliberations, but what exactly characterizes strong arguments? This chapter addresses this question as a first point. The characteristics of arbitrators, such as age, gender, and cultural background, may affect how arbitrators process arguments. Yet given the aim of arbitration to be an objective and neutral process, it is important to consider how such characteristics may impact the ultimate outcome of a case. This chapter examines the last of these characteristics, namely the role of culture in this decision-making process. More precisely, this chapter reviews the research evidence on how members of different cultures evaluate strong and weak arguments.
Brands can position themselves as belonging to a foreign culture by using foreign languages in advertising. Foreign languages in ads have been suggested to be implicit country-of-origin (COO) cues. This paper examines the expectations that foreign languages operate through the COO effect (Study 1), and that they evoke associations (Study 2) and generate persuasive effects (Study 3) similar to COO mentions. The findings of the studies, employing different language slogans for different products, lend support to these expectations. Thus, foreign languages in advertising derive their effectiveness from the COO effect, and practitioners can use them to benefit from this effect.
In the social sciences, there is an important debate about how to do good empirical research and how to publish about it. As this journal, the Tijdschrift voor Taalbeheersing, also regularly publishes empirical studies, the present article aims to open the debate in the field of language and communication. After outlining the major problems associated with research integrity and developing potential solutions to these problems, we invited researchers from the field of language and communication to present their views, which are published as reactions to this paper in the current issue of this journal.
The lead article by Hornikx and Batenburg (2016) invited researchers in language and communication to reflect on problems and possible solutions related to research integrity in conducting and reporting quantitative, empirical research. The reactions from the colleagues in the field underline the problems that were described, and present a number of solutions to these problems. In general, these solutions can be summarized under the heading of meta-analytic thinking: one study does not provide a yes-or-no answer to a given answer; it should be designed to provide more robust results (e.g., through replications, multiple message designs), and should be reported in such a way as to be replicable in the research community (e.g., transparency, registration reports).
Studies on persuasive arguments have generally found that claims supported by high-quality evidence are better accepted than claims supported by low-quality evidence. However, an experiment by Hoeken and Hustinx (2007) demonstrated that this effect was only observed in short texts (a claim with evidence), but not in longer texts (where information unrelated to the evidence was added at the end of the text). The present experiment was conducted to examine whether this effect of text length could be explained by distraction (the additional text at the end distracts the reader) or by dilution (the additional text makes the fragment less diagnostic for claim evaluation). Participants (N = 629) read two texts with a claim supported by high-quality or low-quality (anecdotal, statistical, or expert) evidence. The text was presented in one of the three versions: (1) short, (2) long with additional information at the end, or (3) new in comparison to Hoeken and Hustinx (2007) – long with additional information at the start. The data found support for the distraction explanation. An effect of evidence quality on claim acceptance was observed in two conditions: in the short text, and in the longer text with additional information at the start. The effect of evidence quality was not found in the longer text with additional information at the end.