Are clichés persuasive?

Three experiments compare the effects of familiar phrases (e.g., “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”) to literal phrases conveying the same meaning (i.e., “don’t risk everything on a single venture”) on attitude formation. It is argued that the meaning and value of familiar phrases are quickly and easily understood. It is further argued that such phrases tend to be most frequently used in limited-thinking situations and should be effective as peripheral persuasion cues when utilized in the context of a commercial message. All three experiments support this expectation of peripheral-cue effectiveness. Familiar, relative to literal, phrases resulted in more favorable attitudes under low (but not high) involvement conditions (Experiment 1), under conditions of message distraction (Experiment 2), and for persons with a low (but not high) need for cognition (Experiment 3). The results of all three experiments are discussed as being consistent with the predictions of the elaboration likelihood model.

Source: “Familiar Phrases as Peripheral Persuasion Cues” from Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 33, Issue 3, May 1997, Pages 231-243

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