You Had Me at Hello: How Phrasing Affects Memorability

Proceedings of the ACL, 2012

10 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2012

See all articles by Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil

Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil

Cornell University - Computing and Information Science

Justin Cheng

Cornell University - Department of Computer Science

Jon Kleinberg

Cornell University - Department of Computer Science

Lillian Lee

Cornell University - Department of Computer Science

Date Written: July 8, 2012

Abstract

Understanding the ways in which information achieves widespread public awareness is a research question of significant interest. We consider whether, and how, the way in which the information is phrased -- the choice of words and sentence structure -- can affect this process. To this end, we develop an analysis framework and build a corpus of movie quotes, annotated with memorability information, in which we are able to control for both the speaker and the setting of the quotes. We find that there are significant differences between memorable and non-memorable quotes in several key dimensions, even after controlling for situational and contextual factors. One is lexical distinctiveness: in aggregate, memorable quotes use less common word choices, but at the same time are built upon a scaffolding of common syntactic patterns. Another is that memorable quotes tend to be more general in ways that make them easy to apply in new contexts -- that is, more portable. We also show how the concept of "memorable language" can be extended across domains.

Suggested Citation

Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, Cristian and Cheng, Justin and Kleinberg, Jon and Lee, Lillian, You Had Me at Hello: How Phrasing Affects Memorability (July 8, 2012). Proceedings of the ACL, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2138607

Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Computing and Information Science ( email )

Ithaca, NY
United States

Justin Cheng

Cornell University - Department of Computer Science ( email )

4130 Upson Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Jon Kleinberg

Cornell University - Department of Computer Science ( email )

4130 Upson Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-7501
United States

Lillian Lee

Cornell University - Department of Computer Science ( email )

4130 Upson Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-7501
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.cs.cornell.edu/home/llee

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