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Is it lying or is it just convincing?


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Doublespeak, or the use of euphemisms to swing meaning, lets leaders avoid the reputational cost of lying while still bringing people to their mindset, a new study has found.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo found that the use of pleasant euphemistic expressions interferes with people̵

7;s evaluations of actions to be more favorable. For example, to replace an unpleasant expression “torture” with something more harmless and semantically pleasing, such as “enhanced interrogation.”

“Like the much-studied phenomenon of ‘fake news’, manipulative language can serve as a tool to mislead the public and not do so with fake, but rather with strategic use of euphemistic language,” said Alexander Walker, lead author of the study. and a Ph.D. Master of Cognitive Psychology at Waterloo. “Avoiding objectively false claims can give the strategic language user a plausible denial of dishonesty and thus protect them from the reputational costs associated with lying.”

As part of a series of studies examining the effectiveness, consequences, and mechanisms of doublespeak in a psychological context, the researchers examined whether the use of language characteristic of doublespeak can be used to influence people’s evaluation of actions.

Researchers identified doublespeak as the strategic manipulation of language to influence the opinions of others by representing the truth in a way that benefits oneself. To do this, the researchers considered whether replacing a pleasant expression – for example, “working in a meat processing plant” instead of a semantically related unpleasant expression such as “working in a slaughterhouse” – has an impact on how a person’s actions are interpreted.

The researchers’ findings confirmed that people’s evaluations of an action may be biased in a predictable, self-serving way when a person uses the strategic use of more or less pleasurable terms when describing an action.

“Our study shows how language can be used strategically to shape people’s opinions about events or actions,” Walker said. “With a lower level of risk, individuals may be able to use language manipulation, such as Dual, often without correction.”

The study, “Controlling the Narrative: Euphemistic Language Affects Doms of Actions while Undo Perceptions of Uhonesty”, author of Waterloo’s Faculty of Art Researchers Walker, Jonathan Fugelsang, Martin Turpin, Ethan Meyers, Derek Koehler and Jennifer Stolz, appears in the journal Cognition.

Research shows that BSers are more likely to fall for BS

More information:
Alexander C. Walker et al. Controlling the narrative: Euphemistic language influences judgments of actions, while avoiding the perception of dishonesty, Cognition (2021). DOI: 10.1016 / j.cognition.2021.104633

Provided by the University of Waterloo

Citation: The truth about doublepeak: Is it lying or is it just convincing? (2021, April 8) retrieved April 8, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-04-truth-doublespeak-lying-persuasive.html

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