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
Date Written: August 3, 2010
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
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