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FLUENCY AND THE DETECTION OF MISLEADING QUESTIONS: LOW PROCESSING FLUENCY ATTENUATES THE MOSES ILLUSION

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Song, H.J., and Norbert Schwarz. 2008. "FLUENCY AND THE DETECTION OF MISLEADING QUESTIONS: LOW PROCESSING FLUENCY ATTENUATES THE MOSES ILLUSION." Social Cognition, 26(6): 791-799.

When asked, "How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the Ark?" most people respond "Two" despite knowing that Noah rather than Moses was the biblical actor. Two experiments tested the role of processing fluency in the detection of such semantic distortions by presenting questions in an easy or difficult to read print font. As predicted, low processing fluency facilitated detection of the misleading nature of the question and reduced the proportion of erroneous answers. However, low processing fluency also reduced the proportion of correct answers in response to an undistorted question. In both cases, participants were less likely to rely on their spontaneous association when the font was difficult to read, resulting in improved performance on distorted and impaired performance on undistorted questions. We propose that fluency experiences influence processing style.

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