The importance and use of normative criteria to manipulate argument quality

Argument quality plays an important theoretical and methodological role in persuasion research. Researchers frequently refrain from employing independent normative criteria to manipulate argument quality. Instead they use pretests to qualify arguments that evoke predominantly favorable thoughts as strong, and arguments that predominantly evoke unfavorable thoughts as weak. In this paper, we analyze weak arguments as they have been used in actual studies. These weak arguments ranged from arguments referring to less favorable consequences compared to their strong counterparts, to consequences that are irrelevant to the participants, or even to undesirable consequences thereby essentially functioning as counterarguments. We discuss the implications of this practice for our understanding of the persuasion process and our ability to provide evidence-based guidelines for message designers. We also provide guidelines on how to manipulate argument quality using normative criteria.

Hoeken, H., Hornikx, J., & Linders, Y. (2020). The importance and use of normative criteria to manipulate argument quality. Journal of Advertising, 49 (2), 195-201.

Foreign languages in advertising

This book presents a comprehensive account of the use and effects of foreign languages in advertising. Based on consumer culture positioning strategies in marketing, three language strategies are presented: foreign language display to express foreignness, English to highlight globalness, and local language to appeal to ethnicity (for instance, Spanish for Hispanics in the USA). The book takes a multidisciplinary approach, integrating insights from both marketing and linguistics, presenting both theoretical perspectives (e.g., Communication Accommodation Theory, Conceptual Feature Model, Country-of-origin effect, Markedness Model, Revised Hierarchical Model) and empirical evidence from content analyses and experimental studies. The authors demonstrate that three concepts are key to understanding foreign languages in advertising: language attitudes, language-product congruence, and comprehension. The book will appeal to students and researchers in the fields of sociolinguistics, applied linguistics, psycholinguistics, marketing and advertising.

Hornikx, J., & Meurs, F. van (2020). Foreign languages in advertising: Linguistic and marketing perspectives. Cham: Palgrave MacMillan. [link]

Adapting advertising appeals to individualism or collectivism: The role of thought activation


Research into international advertising has shown culturally adapted value appeals to be more persuasive and better liked than non-adapted value appeals, especially when they appeal to the individualism–collectivism dimension. The exception to this observation is in Europe, where, despite significant cultural differences across the continent, such effects have not been identified. This study replicates the material from a previous, highly successful study, and adds a qualitative part to the study. Dutch participants completed a cognitive response task, placed either before or after the main dependent measures, to investigate whether inviting participants to think actively about an advertisement may lead to value activation and consequently to cultural value adaptation effects. The results indicate that cultural value adaptation has no effect on liking or persuasion, even when the cognitive response task occurred before the main dependent measures. This study adds to a growing body of literature indicating that Western Europeans do not consider advertisements adapted to the individualism–collectivism dimension to be more persuasive than non-adapted advertisements; likewise, Western Europeans do not prefer them over non-adapted advertisements.

  • Janssen, A., & Hornikx, J. (2019). Adapting advertising appeals to individualism or collectivism: the role of thought activation. Journal of Cultural Marketing Strategy, 4 (1), 13-28. [link]

Combining anecdotal and statistical evidence in real-life discourse

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.

  • Hornikx, J. (2018). Combining anecdotal and statistical evidence in real-life discourse: Comprehension and persuasion. Discourse Processes, 55 (3), 324-336.

Cultural values adapted to individualism-collectivism in advertising in Western Europe

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

  • Hornikx, J., & Groot, E. de (2017). Cultural values adapted to individualism-collectivism in advertising in Western Europe: An experimental and meta-analytical approach. International Communication Gazette, 79 (3), 298-316. [link]

An experimental investigation of the role of distraction and dilution

PaglieriStudies 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.

  • Hornikx, J. (2016). Evidence quality variations and claim acceptance: An experimental investigation of the role of distraction and dilution. Paglieri, F., Bonelli, L., & Felletti, S. (eds.), The psychology of argument: Cognitive approaches to argumentation and persuasion (pp. 211-222). London: College Publications. [paper book]

De perceptie van afzwakkende en versterkende markeerders in isolatie en in reclamecontext

demachtvantaalReclameclaims worden soms versterkt of afgezwakt door markeerders als ‘in alle gevallen’ of ‘in de meeste gevallen’. Bestaand experimenteel onderzoek naar de overtuigingskracht van markeerders laat uiteenlopende resultaten zien. Het huidige onderzoek probeert deze bevinding te verklaren door de perceptie van versterkende en afzwakkende markeerders in isolatie en in een reclamecontext te meten. Proefpersonen (N = 230) kenden een mate van waarschijnlijkheid toe aan beide markeerders in isolatie en in een reclamecontext (ingebed in een productclaim). De markeerders lijken hun doel niet te dienen: op een 100-puntsschaal scoren afzwakkers 64 (isolatie) of 57 (reclamecontext) en versterkers 78 (isolatie) of 70 (reclamecontext). Met deze scores voor markeerders is het niet vreemd dat de overtuigingskracht van productclaims niet toeneemt wanneer markeerders worden toegevoegd. In een reclamecontext waren, zoals verwacht, de waarschijnlijkheidsinschattingen significant lager dan in isolatie.

  • Hornikx, J., & Krommenhoek, N. (2016). De perceptie van afzwakkende en versterkende markeerders in isolatie en in reclamecontext. In D. Van de Mieroop, L. Buysse, R. Coesemans, & P. Gillaerts (Red.),  De macht van de taal: Taalbeheersingsonderzoek in Nederland en Vlaanderen (pp. 77-86). Leuven: Acco. [link]

The potential effect of cultural priming on the effectiveness of cultural value adaptation

JCMS_coverIn international advertising, there has been a long-standing debate about standardization versus adaptation. A prominent empirical line of research addressing this issue has revealed that adapting advertisements to important cultural values is beneficial for persuasion and ad liking. Strikingly, this effect is absent for Western Europeans. The present study examines if Western Europeans are sensitive to cultural value adaptation in advertising if individualism-collectivism is primed prior to exposure to the ad. An experiment was conducted in which an ad with an individualist or a collectivist value appeal was presented after exposure to irrelevant primes or to primes consisting of images expressing individualism-collectivism. Results were in line with existing studies: no effect of adaptation was found, even after cultural priming. The results were interpreted through the cultural perspective of dynamic constructivism, according to which the European context may explain why Europeans are as positive about incongruent value appeals as congruent appeals. The experiment adds to the body of research indicating that value adaptation in advertising is not beneficial for marketers in the Western European region.

  • Hornikx, J., & Nijhuis, J. (2016). The potential effect of cultural priming on the effectiveness of cultural value adaptation in advertising. Journal of Cultural Marketing Strategy, 1 (2), 180-188. [link]

Review of “The Sage handbook of persuasion: Developments in theory and practice (2nd edition)”

About ten years after The persuasion handbook: Developments in theory and practice (Dillard & Pfau, 2002), James Dillard and Lijiang Shen publish an updated, new version. In their SAGE Handbook of persuasion, they host a collection of 23 chapters that deal with fundamental issues in persuasion, that present a panorama of important theories and perspectives, and that demonstrate the importance of persuasion in diverse contexts and settings. […] Finally, how does this book relate to other books? For practical advice on how to design messages, Persuasive messages: The process of influence by William Benoit and Pamela Benoit (reviewed in this journal: Hornikx, 2008), nicely complements this handbook. For precise avenues that future research should focus on, Persuasion by Daniel O’Keefe (also reviewed in this journal: Hornikx, 2003) is excellent reading, but it does not outline the important contexts and settings in which persuasion plays a role, such as politics, health, and technology. In the broad spectrum of persuasion books on offer, this SAGE Handbook of persuasion is among the most prominent ones: written by some of the best scholars in the field, it covers a wide range of topics in a concise manner.

  • Hornikx, J. (2013). Review of “The Sage handbook of persuasion: Developments in theory and practice (2nd edition)” by James Dillard and Lijiang Shen. Information Design Journal, 20 (2), 187-189. [link]

De overtuigingskracht van normatief sterke en normatief zwakke anekdotische evidentie

Vanuit normatief oogpunt zou de kwaliteit van evidentie invloed moeten hebben op de overtuigingskracht ervan. In experimenten lijkt normatief sterke evidentie ook overtuigender dan normatief zwakke evidentie, maar wanneer de boodschap langer (Hoeken & Hustinx, 2007) of natuurlijker is (Hoeken & Van Wijk, 1997) blijken ontvangers niet gevoelig voor evidentiekwaliteit. In deze studie is onderzocht of de kwaliteit van anekdotische evidentie wel effect heeft op overtuigingskracht als ook statistische evidentie aanwezig is. Nijmegenaren (N = 125) beoordeelden een brief van de gemeente Nijmegen over afvalverwerking waarin normatief sterke of zwakke anekdotische evidentie stond, die wel of niet was aangevuld met statistische evidentie. Zonder statistische evidentie had de kwaliteit van anekdotische evidentie geen effect op de overtuigingskracht, maar mét statistische evidentie was sterke anekdotische evidentie overtuigender dan zwakke anekdotische evidentie. Deze studie laat daarmee zien dat de kwaliteit van evidentie ook in een natuurlijke, realistische setting de overtuigingskracht ervan kan beïnvloeden.

  • Hornikx, J., & Houët, T. (2009). De overtuigingskracht van normatief sterke en normatief zwakke anekdotische evidentie in het bijzijn van statistische evidentie. In W. Spooren, M. Onrust, & J. Sanders (Eds.), Studies in taalbeheersing, vol. 3 (pp. 125-133). Assen: Van Gorcum. [pdf]