Guest Post by Stephenie Little
Did you ever try to convince your parents to let you get a puppy? With little to no experience in puppy-parenting at the ever-so embarrassing age of thirteen, I remember setting up a high-quality poster board presentation to explain to my parents why I needed a puppy. I confidently stood in front of my mom and dad in the living room, presented my colorful poster board of facts and stats, and acted as if I knew everything there was to know about getting and raising a pet. Two short weeks later, we had a new puppy.
While I presented all I knew on Shepherds, Huskies, Boxers and Great Danes, I explored different avenues on what was the easiest information for my parents to process, what made them say “ahh yes, that makes sense and is easy to understand and our enthusiastic, dog-loving daughter is right.”
Fluency is the idea that if someone makes it easy for another person to understand whatever information they are trying to describe, that person is going to believe and trust what they are being told. Well, maybe it’s not that easy, but with a couple more key ingredients, you will be on your way to true fluency success.
Speak the Truth
In an effort to explain how well this act of fluency worked on my parents, I would like to take a minute and speak some truth: I did a lot of research on dogs and taking care of dogs, probably more than I am willing to admit, but I wanted to be a pro when I brought this information to my parents. An effect of processing fluency that is particularly relevant to decision making is its influence on judgments of truth. People associate familiarity with truth, and high fluency can lead to an inference that a statement is familiar.
Okay, so what does that actually mean? It means that when I brought my poster board to the presentation, I had my sources right where mom and dad could see. A couple doctors backed with information that explained why pets were good family additions, a vet that stated the best breeds and why they were rockin’ dogs to own, a psychologist that expressed his attitude that pets alleviate a lot of stress and anxiety. All of these people brought something important to my presentation and even more important to the presentation: they were trusted and educated individuals on my specific subject. Mom and dad swooned at the evidence I offered up.
Take Some Shots, Hit Some Targets
Which takes me to my next point that fluency of processing can also affect evaluative judgments. The more easily a given target can be processed, the more positively it is evaluated. In this case, it was actually really simple to get a positive evaluation from my parents.
I know what my mom and dad like down to the breed of dogs. I used this to my advantage and started with a dog we had previously owned, a beautiful Australian Shepherd mutt, named Oliver. They had everything they needed to know about this breed already stored in the 10+ years of direct and amazing experiences with Oliver; I was just there to solidify those positive vibes they had toward the breed. Now, the other breeds were not as easy to give them a target but I managed. Pictures of the puppies of each breed were displayed for everyone’s viewing pleasure and little facts were placed under each puppy.
Aim. Fire. Bullseye. Easy to read. Easy to love. Easy to positively evaluate.
Something Good to See
Possibly the most important part of the presentation of information you want someone to understand and believe is the visual display, which was touched on earlier. After you buy the white poster board, you have to choose what color paint or paper and what font of stencils you need for the important message you are trying to depict.
John Keats’ famous saying “Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty, –that is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know,” stands true to research done on the visual representation of information to increase fluency.
Specifically, a study used different fonts to describe a cordless telephone. The embossed italicized gray font required significantly more effort to read and participants responded with higher deferral rates (41%) than those presented with a standard font (16%).
Another study established that the ease of the statement has a significant effect on our perception of its truthfulness. A statement presented in a highly visible, dark-blue font against a white background is read and processed more readily than one that appears in a less-visible yellow font.
Basically, your white poster board that is being used to convince mom and dad to get you a puppy, needs some dark-blue paint and an easy-to-read font that is attractive to their eyes to get them on board your puppy-train. This makes it easy for them to read and confident that you are being truthful about all the facts and stats you googled (or made up) for your puppy presentation. And of course you cannot forget the puppy pictures because pictures speak 1,000 words!
This Stuff Matters
Fluency is a big part of life. Marketing, teaching, convincing your parents to get you a puppy (which worked, might I add), and so many other day-to-day life events take on the fluency ways in order to give a person you are trying to convince an easy way to process the information.
Though the difference between something being fluent or not fluent does not seem to be extreme, fluency has provided significant evidence that it does, in fact, impact attitudes; therefore, whether you are thirty-five trying to sell an idea to your boss or thirteen trying to convince your parents you need a puppy, the classic approach to effective persuasion rests within your confident ability and conceptual understanding on how to demonstrate visually fluent information at ease.
Stephenie Little wrote this article as a final writing assignment in my Attitudes and Persuasion class at the College of Wooster.