Conceptual metaphors, processing fluency, and aesthetic preference (Zhang et al., 2022)

In everyday language, abstract concepts are described in terms of concrete physical experiences (e.g., good things are “up”; the past is “behind” us). Stimuli congruent with such conceptual metaphors are processed faster than stimuli that are not. Since ease of processing enhances aesthetic pleasure, stimuli should be perceived as more pleasing when their presentation matches (rather than mismatches) the metaphorical mapping. In six experiments, speakers of English (Experiment 1-3a) and Farsi (Experiment 3b and 4) viewed valence- and time-related photos in arrangements congruent and incongruent with their metaphorical mapping. Consistent with the valence-verticality metaphor in both languages, English and Farsi speakers preferred visual arrangements that placed the happy photo above the sad photo. In contrast, participants’ preferences for time-related photos were moderated by the direction of writing. English speakers, who write from left to right, preferred arrangements that placed past-themed photos to the left of modern-themed photos; this was not observed for Farsi speakers, who write from right to left as well as left to right. In sum, identical stimuli enjoy an aesthetic advantage when their spatial arrangement matches the spatial ordering implied by applicable conceptual metaphors. — Zhang, L., Atari, M., Schwarz, N., Newman, E. J., & Afhami, R. (2022). Conceptual metaphors, processing fluency, and aesthetic preference. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 98, 104247.


When photos backfire: Truthiness and falsiness effects in comparative judgments (Zhang, Newman, & Schwarz, 2021)

Claims are more likely to be judged true when presented with a related nonprobative photo (Newman et al., 2012). According to a processing fluency account, related photos facilitate processing and easy processing fosters acceptance of the claim. Alternatively, according to an illusion-of-evidence account, related photos may increase acceptance of the claim because they are treated as tentative supportive evidence. We disentangle these potential mechanisms by using comparative claims. In forming comparative judgments, people first assess attributes of the linguistic subject of comparison and subsequently compare them to attributes of the referent (Tversky, 1977). Hence, photos of the linguistic subject in a sentence should facilitate, but photos of the linguistic referent should impair, fluent processing of this sequence. In contrast, a photo of either the subject or the referent can be perceived as tentative evidence. In two experiments (total N = 1200), photos of the subject increased acceptance of comparative claims relative to a no-photo condition (a truthiness effect), but only when the subject was otherwise difficult to visualize. Photos of the referent decreased acceptance of comparative claims relative to a no-photo condition (a falsiness effect), but only when the subject of comparison was otherwise easy to visualize. All results are consistent with a context-sensitive fluency account: increases in fluency foster, and decreases in fluency impair, acceptance of a claim as true. The results provide no support for an illusion-of-evidence account. — Zhang, L., Newman, E. J., & Schwarz, N. (2021). When photos backfire: Truthiness and falsiness effects in comparative judgments. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 92, 104054.


Sound and credibility in the virtual court: Low audio quality leads to less favorable evaluations of witness and lower weighting of evidence (Bild et al., 2021)

Recent virtual court proceedings have seen a range of technological challenges, producing not only trial interruptions but also cognitive interruptions in processing evidence. Very little empirical research has focused on how the subjective ease or difficulty of processing information can affect evaluations of people, belief in information, and how a given piece of information is weighted in decision making. Hypotheses: We hypothesized that when people experienced technological challenges (e.g., poor audio quality) while listening to eyewitness accounts, the difficulty in processing evidence would lead them to evaluate a witness more negatively, influence their memory for key facts, and lead them to weigh that evidence less in final trial judgments. Method: Across three experiments (total N = 593), participants listened to audio clips of witnesses describing an event, one presented in high-quality audio and one presented in low-quality audio. Results: When people heard witnesses present evidence in low-quality audio, they rated the witnesses as less credible, reliable, and trustworthy (Experiment 1, d = 0.32; Experiment 3, d = 0.55); had poorer memory for key facts presented by the witness (Experiment 2, d = 0.44); and weighted witness evidence less in final guilt judgments (Experiment 3, η2 p = .05). Conclusion: These results show that audio quality influences perceptions of witnesses and their evidence. Because these variables can contribute to trial outcomes, audio quality warrants consideration in trial proceedings. — Bild, E., Redman, A., Newman, E. J., Muir, B. R., Tait, D., & Schwarz, N. (2021). Sound and credibility in the virtual court: Low audio quality leads to less favorable evaluations of witnesses and lower weighting of evidence. Law and Human Behavior, 45(5), 481.


Metacognitive experiences as information: Processing fluency in consumer judgment and decision making (Schwarz et al., 2021)

Thinking is accompanied by metacognitive experiences of ease or difficulty. People draw on these experiences as a source of information that can complement or challenge the implications of declarative information. We conceptualize the operation of metacognitive experiences within the framework of feeling-as-information theory and review their implications for judgments relevant to consumer behavior, including popularity, trust, risk, truth, and beauty. — Schwarz, N., Jalbert, M., Noah, T., & Zhang, L. (2021). Metacognitive experiences as information: Processing fluency in consumer judgment and decision making. Consumer Psychology Review, 4(1), 4-25.


Only half of what I’ll tell you is true: Expecting to encounter falsehood reduces illusory truth (Jalbert, Schwarz, & Newman, 2020)

Information is judged as more true when it has been seen or heard repeatedly than when it is new. This illusory truth effect has important consequences in the real world, where we are repeatedly exposed to information of unknown veracity. While false information in natural contexts rarely comes with a warning label, false information in truth effect experiments often does. Commonly used experimental procedures alert participants to potential falsehoods at exposure through instructional warnings. Three experiments show that the size of the truth effect is over twice as large when such warnings are avoided. The influence of pre-exposure warnings on the size of the truth effect persists even after a delay of three to six days. These findings demonstrate that common experimental procedures invite a systematic underestimation of illusory truth effects. They also highlight that simple warnings can curb the impact of repetition on judgments of truth. — Jalbert, M., Newman, E., & Schwarz, N. (2020). Only half of what i’ll tell you is true: Expecting to encounter falsehoods reduces illusory truth. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 9(4), 602-613.


Truth from familiar turns of phrase: Word and number collocations in the corpus of language influence acceptance of novel claims (Zhang & Schwarz, 2020)

People are more likely to accept a claim as true, the more often they heard it in the past. We test whether using frequently encountered formal characteristics in constructing a novel claim increases its acceptance as true. A corpus analysis (study 1) established that, in everyday language use, lower-bound modifiers (e.g., “more than”) collocate more frequently with large numbers than upper-bound modifiers (e.g., “less than”). This regularity influences which numbers people expect to follow a given modifier (study 2): large (small) numbers are categorized faster and more accurately when primed by a lower- (upper-) bound modifier than an upper- (lower- ) bound modifier. Novel quantitative claims that conform with these collocation patterns are more likely to be judged true (study 3), indicating that the collocation frequency of generic elements of quantitative expressions can influence the perceived truth of novel specific claims. Collocation frequency influences truth judgment even when participants know that the choice of number was arbitrary and based on their zip-code (study 4), suggesting that the effect does not depend on speakers’ assumed communicative intent and the perceived informational value of the statements. We conclude that familiar turns of phrase can increase the acceptance of novel claims. — Zhang, Y. C., & Schwarz, N. (2020). Truth from familiar turns of phrase: Word and number collocations in the corpus of language influence acceptance of novel claims. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 90, 103999.


Of fluency, beauty, and truth (Schwarz, 2018)

To evaluate whether a claim is likely to be true, people attend to whether it is compatible with other things they know, internally consistent and plausible, supported by evidence, accepted by others, and offered by a credible source. Each criterion can be evaluated by drawing on relevant details (an effortful analytic strategy) or by attending to the ease with which the claim can be processed (a less effortful intuitive strategy). Easy processing favors acceptance under all criteria—when thoughts flow smoothly, people nod along. Ease of processing is also central to aesthetic appeal, and easily processed materials are evaluated as prettier. This sheds new light on why beauty and truth are often seen as related, by poets and scientists alike. Because people are more sensitive to their feelings than to where these feelings come from, numerous incidental variables can influence perceived beauty and truth by influencing the perceiver’s processing experience. —  Schwarz, N. (2018). Of fluency, beauty, and truth. Metacognitive Diversity: An Interdisciplinary Approach, 25.


Metacognition (Schwarz, 2015)

A handbook chapter that reviews metacognition research in social psychology. — Schwarz, N. (2015). Metacognition. In E. Borgida & J. A. Bargh (Eds.), APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition. Washington, DC: APA


Misinformation and its correction (Lewandowsky et al, 2012)

The widespread prevalence and persistence of misinformation in contemporary societies, such as the false belief that there is a link between childhood vaccinations and autism, must be of public concern. For example, the myths surrounding vaccinations which led some parents to withhold immunization from their children have demonstrably led to a marked increase in vaccine-preventable disease, as well as unnecessary public expenditure on research and public information campaigns to rectify the situation. We first examine the mechanisms by which such misinformation is disseminated in society, both inadvertently and purposely. Misinformation can originate from rumors but also works of fiction, from government and politicians, as well as vested interests. Moreover, changes in the media landscape and the arrival of the internet have fundamentally impacted the ways in which information is communicated and misinformation is spread. We then move to the level of the individual, and review the cognitive factors that often render misinformation resistant to correction. We consider how people assess the truth of a statement and what makes people believe certain things but not others. We answer the question why retractions of misinformation are so ineffective and why efforts to retract misinformation can even backfire and ironically increase misbelief. While ideology and personal worldviews can be major obstacles for debiasing, there nonetheless are a number of effective techniques to reduce the impact of misinformation, and we pay special attention to these factors that aid in debiasing. We conclude by providing specific recommendations for practitioners to aid in the debunking of misinformation. These recommendations pertain to the ways in which corrections should be designed, structured, and applied in order to maximise impact. Grounded in cognitive psychological theory, these recommendations may help practitioners—including journalists, health professionals, educators, and science communicators—design effective misinformation retractions, educational tools, and public information campaigns. — Lewandowsky, S., Ecker, U. K. H., Seifert, C., Schwarz, N., & Cook, J. (2012). Misinformation and its correction: Continued influence and successful debiasing. Psychological Science in the Public Interest,13, 106-131.


When promoting a charity can hurt charitable giving: A metacognitive analysis (Smith & Schwarz, 2012)

Charities need to come to mind to enter a potential donor’s consideration set. However, feeling familiar with a charity and its cause can facilitate or impair giving. In most cases, perceived good memory for details of the cause fosters the impression of personal importance, which increases giving (Studies 1 and 3). But when the charity aims to increase awareness of a cause, good memory for the cause suggests that awareness is already high, which impairs giving (Studies 2 and 3). Hence, promotions for awareness-raising charities can actually have negative consequences, confirming the predictions of a metacognitive analysis. — Smith, R. W. & Schwarz, N.(2012). When promoting a charity can hurt charitable giving: A metacognitive analysis. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 22, 558-564.


Meaning in context (Schwarz, 2010)

This chapter reviews how the interpretation of metacognitive experiences shifts with the context of the experience, resulting in diverging effects of the same experience on related judgments. — Schwarz, N. (2010). Meaning in context: Metacognitive experiences. In B. Mesquita, L. F. Barrett, & E. R. Smith (eds.), The mind in context (pp. 105 -125). New York: Guilford


If it’s easy to read, it’s easy to do, pretty, good, and true (Song & Schwarz, 2010)

This article provides an easily accessible overview of recent fluency research for a lay audience. It was invited by a magazine of the British Psychological Society. — Song, S., & Schwarz, N. (2010). If it’s easy to read, it’s easy to do, pretty, good, and true: fluency effects on judgment, choice, and processing style. The Psychologist (February 2010)


If it’s difficult to pronounce, it must be risky (Song & Schwarz, 2009)

Low processing fluency fosters the impression that a stimulus is unfamiliar, which in turn results in perceptions of higher risk, independent of whether the risk is desirable or undesirable. In studies 1 and 2, ostensible food additives were rated as more harmful when their names were difficult rather than easy to pronounce; mediation analyses indicated that this effect is mediated by the perceived novelty of the substance. In study 3, amusement park rides were rated as more likely to make one sick (an undesirable risk) as well as more exciting and adventurous (a desirable risk) when their names were difficult rather than easy to pronounce. — Song, H., & Schwarz, N. (2009). If it’s difficult to pronounce, it must be risky: Fluency, familiarity, and risk perception. Psychological Science, 20, 135-138.


Inferring the popularity of an opinion from its familiarity (Weaver et al., 2007)

Despite the importance of doing so, people do not always correctly estimate the distribution of opinions within their group. One important mechanism underlying such misjudgments is people’s tendency to infer that a familiar opinion is a prevalent one even when its familiarity derives solely from the repeated expression of one group member. Six experiments demonstrate this effect and show that it holds even when perceivers are consciously aware that the opinions come from one speaker. The results also indicate that the effect is due to opinion accessibility rather than a conscious inference about the meaning of opinion repetition in a group. Implications for social consensus estimation and social influence are discussed. — Weaver, K., Garcia, S.M., Schwarz, N., & Miller, D. T. (2007). Inferring the popularity of an opinion from its familiarity: A repetitive voice can sound like a chorus. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 821-833.


When thinking feels difficult (Schwarz, 2005)

Most models of judgment and decision making focus solely on what comes to mind. This focus on thought content misses that the meta-cognitive experiences that accompany the thought process are informative in their own right. These experiences include the ease or difficulty with which information can be brought to mind or reasons can be generated (accessibility experiences) and the fluency with which new information can be processed (processing fluency). Meta-cognitive experiences can qualify the implications of thought content, resulting in judgments and decisions that are opposite to the predictions derived from content-focused models. — Schwarz, N. (2005). When thinking feels difficult: Meta-cognitive experiences in judgment and decision making. Medical Decision Making, 25, 105-112.