The Virtues of Opaque Prose: How Lay Beliefs About Fluency Influence Perceptions of Quality

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Forthcoming

20 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2010 Last revised: 4 Aug 2010

Jeff Galak

Carnegie Mellon University

Leif D. Nelson

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business

Date Written: August 3, 2010

Abstract

Instructors tell their students to write clearly. This prescription meshes with our intuition, wins confirmation in scores of books on writing, and finds empirical confirmation in research on perceptual fluency: People like content that is easy to process. Nevertheless, in some circumstances people expect content to be difficult, and ease might be interpreted as a lack of quality. We investigate this possibility by asking people to judge the quality of written text which varies in fluency (through the manipulation of font and facial feedback). Across three studies, disfluent content was judged to be of higher quality when it was thought to come from a source focused on conveying information than one designed to maximize enjoyment.

Keywords: fluency, meta-cognition, writing, reading

Suggested Citation

Galak, Jeff and Nelson, Leif D., The Virtues of Opaque Prose: How Lay Beliefs About Fluency Influence Perceptions of Quality (August 3, 2010). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1585401 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1585401

Jeff Galak (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-5810 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.jeffgalak.com

Leif D. Nelson

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business ( email )

545 Student Services Building, #1900
2220 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
138
Rank
172,985
Abstract Views
1,167