Attitude change as a function of the number of words in which thoughts are expressed
Abstract This research examines whether varying the number of words in which thoughts are expressed can influence subsequent evaluations. Across six studies, keeping the number of thoughts constant, we tested to what extent the length of the thoughts, the personal importance of the topic, and the extent of practice in short versus long thought expression influenced attitude change. In the first two studies, expressing thoughts in one word (vs. many words) led to less thought use when the topic was high in importance (Experiment 1) but to more thought use when topic was low in importance (Experiment 2). In a third study, the number of words used was manipulated along with the perceived importance of the experimental task. As predicted, expressing thoughts was perceived to be easier with one vs. many words when the task was low in importance but the opposite held when it was high in importance. In Experiment 4, attitudes were more influenced by thoughts when one word was used in a task that was framed to low importance task but many words were used on the task framed with high importance. Experiment 5 included a direct manipulation of ease and extended these results from a motivational framework to an ability setting by using a paradigm in which familiarity (based on prior training) interacted with thought length to affect attitudes. A final study replicated the key effect with more real-world materials, and extended the contribution from an experimental approach to testing process to a measurement approach to mediation. Highlights This is the first research that examines the impact of the length with which thoughts are expressed on attitude change. Expressing thoughts in many vs. one word is consequential for evaluative judgments. People are more motivated and practiced using many words when expressing thoughts on high relative to low importance topics. Using many (vs. one) words was easier and facilitated the impact of thoughts on attitudes when people cared about the task. Using one-word (hashtag) vs. many words (long tweet) was easier and increased thought reliance when people did not care.
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