How fast can you (possibly) do it, or how long will it (certainly) take? Communicating uncertain estimates of performance time
Recent research on verbal probability statements has revealed that some expressions (e.g., possible) are especially appropriate for describing outcomes in the high end of a distribution, whereas other expressions (e.g., certain) are more appropriate for describing low-end values.
However, some dimensions appear to be reversible, with higher achievements sometimes associated with high and sometimes with low values, depending on frame. We report three experiments where this “reframing effect” is studied in communications of estimated performance time, both from a speaker's and from a listener's perspective. We hypothesize that statements describing tasks as “taking time” suggest a duration frame, and find accordingly that statements about how many hours that possibly will be spent on a task, or the time a task possibly takes, lead to high time estimates. Statements focusing on the actor's role suggest, in contrast, a speed frame, thus statements about what the actor can possibly do lead to low time estimates. Estimates of the time a task certainly takes or when it is certainly done follow the opposite pattern. The results are in line with approaches that see production and comprehension of language as a dynamical and context-driven process.
Acta Psychologica, 2014,148, 63–73