According to Mercier and Sperber (2009, 2011, 2017), people have an immediate and intuitive feeling about the strength of an argument. These intuitive evaluations are not captured by current evaluation methods of argument strength, yet they could be important to predict the extent to which people accept the claim supported by the argument. In an exploratory study, therefore, a newly developed intuitive evaluation method to assess argument strength was compared to an explicit argument strength evaluation method (the PAS scale; Zhao et al., 2011), on their ability to predict claim acceptance (predictive validity) and on their sensitivity to differences in the manipulated quality of arguments (construct validity). An experimental study showed that the explicit argument strength evaluation performed well on the two validity measures. The intuitive evaluation measure, on the other hand, was not found to be valid. Suggestions for other ways of constructing and testing intuitive evaluation measures are presented.
Hornikx, J., Weerman, A., & Hoeken, H. (2022). An exploratory test of an intuitive evaluation method of perceived argument strength. Studies in Communication Sciences, 22 (2), 311-324. [link]
Empirical research has shown that high-quality arguments according to criteria from argumentation theory lead to higher claim acceptance than low-quality arguments. However, this relationship was not observed in some cultural settings. This leads to the question whether criteria for high-quality arguments are culturally variable or universal. Therefore, adding to existing research on sensitivity to quality criteria for the argument from authority and the argument from generalization conducted mainly in Western cultural contexts, an experiment was run in Turkey (N = 307). Results showed that Turkish participants were sensitive to the quality of arguments: claim acceptance was higher when high-quality variants were used than when low-quality variants were used. While not neglecting potential cultural variability, these data add to the findings that there might be some level of universality in sensitivity to criteria for argument quality.
Demir, Y., & Hornikx, J. (2022). Sensitivity to argument quality: Adding Turkish data to the question of cultural variability versus universality. Communication Research Reports, 39 (2), 104-113. [link]
A phenomenon that has become clearer through social media is that people often gather with like-minded others to strengthen their opinions. In such circumstances, people do not respond in a reasonable way to the arguments of others or even completely ignore the opinions of those who think differently. But what does it mean to reason reasonably with arguments? What exactly can we expect from people? And how good are we at reasoning with arguments? Studies have shown that people can be sensitive to norms for reasonable arguments. Standpoints are more likely to be accepted if they are supported by arguments that meet normative standards. Whereas people may thus be open to reason, dealing with norms can be culture dependent. This finding creates a fascinating field of tension between absolute norms and the relativity of cultures.
Hornikx, J. (2021). Voor rede vatbaar: hoe goed zijn mensen in het redeneren met argumenten? Tijdschriftvoor Taalbeheersing, 43 (1), 65-80. [link]
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.
Aichner (2014) proposes a classification of ways in which brands communicate their country of origin (COO). The current, exploratory study is the first to empirically investigate the frequency with which brands employ such COO markers in magazine advertisements. An analysis of about 750 ads from the British, Dutch, and Spanish editions of Cosmopolitan showed that the prototypical ‘made in’ marker was rarely used, and that ‘COO embedded in company name’ and ‘use of COO language’ were most frequently employed. In all, 36% of the total number of ads contained at least one COO marker, underlining the importance of the COO construct.
Hornikx, J., Meurs, F. van, Janssen, A., & Heuvel, J. van den (2020). How brands highlight country of origin in magazine advertising: A content analysis. Journal of Global Marketing, 33 (1), 34-45.
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]
In the lead article, Carel Jansen argues that practical issues in professional communication should be taken as source for academic research on language and communication. I first accept the claim that it is important for the research field to take the professional field of communication into account (1). I then explain why practical solution based on academic research usually take so long to develop (2). My opinions partly also diverge from Jansen, at least in two ways. I argue that researchers in language and communication already incorporate practice into their studies (3). I finally discuss a number of problems that seem to occur in applied research (4).
Hornikx, J. (2018). Theoriegestuurd taalbeheersingsonderzoek met oog voor de praktijk. Tijdschrift voor Taalbeheersing, 40 (2), 193-197 [link].
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.
Hornikx, J., & Liebrecht, C. (2018). Het belang van taalbeheersing in onderzoek naar digitale communicatie. Tijdschrift voor Taalbeheersing, 40 (1), 1-12 [link].
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.
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.
Hornikx, J., Harris, A., & Boekema, J. (2018). How many laypeople holding a popular opinion are needed to counter an expert opinion? Thinking and Reasoning, 24 (1), 117-128.