Petra Filkuková investigated how judgments about products are affected by formal aspects of promotion statements. Can-statements and rhymes proved to be an effective mean how to enhance expectations from products, without necessarily promising anything concrete, which might later turn to be a lie.
All five papers employed an experimental design. Papers 1-3 focused on statements containing verbs can, will, and other selected verbal probability expressions. The investigated statements carried quantitative information about positive and negative product outcomes.
In paper 1 we found that participants tend to supplement can-statements with maximal values of a distribution of product outcomes and will-statements with modal or minimum values. This may cause misunderstandings namely in case of can-statements, because receivers proved to interpret them as referring to probable (instead of rare and extreme) product outcomes.
Paper 2 shows that can- and will-statements are in the consumer context often interpreted as referring to a higher prevalence for negative effects than for positive effects. However, it was difficult to equate can and will with a particular percentage of prevalence, since the estimated percentages proved to be highly context-dependent. In line with the results of Paper 1, the verb will was typically not equated with a 100% prevalence, not even in situations when participants were reassured that the claim was truthful. Unexpectedly, mild negative side effect increased attractiveness of certain products (especially medicines).
In Paper 3 we applied the same approach as in Paper 1 for investigation of a wider range of verbal probability words (a chance, certain, not certain, not completely certain, possible, quite improbable, quite probable). We found that possible yields similar results to can, whereas certain parallels will. In addition, we disclosed that can is not used only with extreme maxima, but in certain contexts also with extreme minima.
In Paper 4 we compared perception of rhyming slogans and their non-rhyming counterparts. For commercial advertising, participants evaluated rhymes as superior to non-rhymes. Rhymes were not only judged as more likable, more memorable, and more suitable for advertising campaigns than their non-rhyming counterparts, but also as more truthful and more persuasive. Participants reported they were more willing to buy products promoted by rhyming slogans than by their non-rhyming equivalents. In case of social advertising slogans, the difference between evaluation of rhymes and non-rhymes was smaller. However, when participants compared rhyming slogans and their non-rhyming equivalents in a within-Ss design, the difference between commercial and social advertising disappeared and rhymes were always significantly superior to non-rhymes. A more detailed analysis disclosed that the most aesthetically pleasing rhymes were also the most persuasive ones.
In Paper 5 we investigated perception of incorrect quantitative statements, which were presented under different frames (e.g., understatements vs. overstatements). Understatements were judged as less distant from truth, more innocent and less anger-provoking than overstatements. This finding parallels participants’ preference for the lowest values of the distribution of outcomes as an adequate supplement for will-statements (Paper 1) and certain-statements (Paper 3).We hypothesized that it was so due to the fact that low values are in a sense entailed by larger ones. In addition, we found that participants perceived their own lies as more serious, more anger-provoking and further away from truth than the very same lies uttered by others.