Simplicity, or more precisely the cognitive fluency, increases persuasion. But does it also mean that vividness and persuasion are incompatible because vivid details usually reduce cognitive fluency? Is the shorter message always more persuasive? Or is it possible that a more detailed and vivid message (which can be also more difficult to process) can be more persuasive? The short answer: it depends.
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What is the Weak Evidence Effect?
Should you use more evidence or less? The weak evidence effect suggests that if you’ve got some strong arguments, it is best to leave out any weak evidence, even if it seems to be supportive evidence overall. Recent research by Brown University researchers shows that you’ll achieve stronger effect if you use only strong reasons.
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Joseph Story, who was an Associate Justice in the nineteenth century US Supreme Court, is perhaps known nowadays to one or a few lawyers, but seems largely irrelevant to everyone else. Yet, his persuasion advice may be very relevant to anyone who depends on the ability to influence through cogent arguments. This means all sorts of efforts aimed diffusion of social innovations and social advocacy to highest-level political campaigns.
His persuasion wisdom is encapsulated in his poem titled “Advice to a Young Lawyer.” His advice could be summarized in these words: “spend not your words on trifles, but condense” and “strike but a few blows, but strike them to the heart”.
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What is Cognitive Fluency?
Our decisions are very likely to be swayed and distorted by the fluency of information relevant to our decisions. (Any information or stimulus that is easier to process is called more fluent, hence the term processing or cognitive fluency.)
As a general principle, our brains prefer simpler stimulus or information. Essentially the less effort it takes for the brain to process the information, the more pleased it is. Conversely, when the brain finds something challenging to process, it is more likely to doubt it. The principle works with any stimulus. For example, if an unreadable typeface challenges your brain, the brain will think that the information communicated by the typeface is unreliable.
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