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Remember the story about how giving someone a reason, even if it’s a nonsense reason, gets them to say “yes”? We got it from Robert Cialdini, if I remember correctly.

Thanks to a recent post on Language Log entitled Generalization and Truth, I’ve learned that the cited study is here: “The Mindlessness of Ostensibly Thoughtful Action: The Role of ‘Placebic’ Information in Interpersonal Interaction”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(6): 635-42, 1978.

I’ve also learned that the study didn’t exactly say what we’ve been told it says:

What I discovered was frequent misunderstanding of the 1978 paper’s results, involving both a different conclusion and a strikingly overgeneralized picture of the observed effects. Kahneman 2003 was merely the most prominent of these. So as part of my on-going exploration of scientific rhetoric…

For the details, go read Generalization and Truth at Language Log.

Written by Michael DeBusk

May 3rd, 2009 at 3:05 pm

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