From the Lab: It’s Your Idea

Previously, I’ve written about the IKEA effect and “not invented here” (NIH) syndrome, which causes people to place less value on ideas proposed by someone else and more value on ideas they generate themselves. As I wrote in that post, “in the case of serious NIH syndrome, the best case scenario is that the audience believes your ideas are actually their own.”

As it turns out, a recent study (reported by BPS Research Digest) confirmed this directly. In several experiments, some of the participants were asked to imagine that they had a theory about the relationship between two fictional creatures on a fictional planet (i.e., that Niffites were predators and Luupites were their prey) while others were asked to imagine that someone named Alex had this theory (or that no one in particular had it).

Then the participants were given a series of seven facts that appeared to either support or oppose the theory (e.g., that Niffites are larger than Luupites, or that Luupites have sharper teeth than Niffites, respectively). Even though the theory wasn’t really the participants’ own theory, those who had been told that it was more stubbornly persisted in believing it in the face of opposing evidence than those who had been told it was Alex’s (or no one’s).

Thus, if you can get the audience to believe that your ideas are theirs, they’ll feel more invested in them and be more likely to believe them.

From the Lab: Pics or It Didn’t Happen

In a 2013 study by Steven Frenda, et al., researchers found that when a fake news story about an event—such as President Obama shaking hands with the president of Iran, or President Bush vacationing with a baseball celebrity during Hurricane Katrina—was accompanied by a fabricated picture which purportedly depicted the event, almost half of the people who saw the picture believed that it had actually happened, with more than a quarter of the people who saw the picturing remembering that they saw the event on the news at the time it occurred. A 2015 study by Erin Newman, et al. found that the same principle applies to simple statements as well. For example, adding a picture of macadamia nuts to the statement “Macadamia nuts are in the same evolutionary family as peaches” makes the statement significantly more believable.

While I certainly hope that you’re not intending to use the science of speaking to mislead people into believing things that aren’t true, these studies underscore the power of pictures for bolstering your claims.

From the Lab: Easy to Read, Easy to Believe

In a recent blog post, we saw that when instructions for a task were presented in a font that was easy to read, people thought the task would be significantly easier.

In an earlier study by the same researcher, Norbert Schwarz (this time working with Rolf Reber), they found that when statements were presented in colors that were easy to read (i.e., dark blue vs. yellow on a white background), people were significantly more likely to judge them as being true.

For example,

“Osorno is in Chile.”

is significantly easier to read than

“Osorno is in Chile.”

and as a result, the former is more likely to be judged as true.

Once again, this finding underscores the importance of making your presentations easy to understand—in this case, by making your visuals easy to see.