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Rhymes and Reasons, why Poetry is Treason

November 26th, 2019 1 comment

Tale as old as time, why we believe rhymes. Does the truth reside or it is a lie? From childhood to adulthood,

Apples are good for you, but that doesn’t mean that you can avoid going to the doctor altogether!

we are surrounded by rhymes of all kinds. First, they were nursery rhymes and now they take the forms of aphorisms and commercial slogans. Though we might not realize it, these rhymes have the ability to affect how we perceive the world. Given the choice between “woes unite foes” or “woes unite enemies,” people generally think the former is more accurate although the two phrases have similar meanings (McGlone & Tofighbakhsh, 2000). Why is that? The answer lies in a phenomenon called the Rhyme as Reason Effect, which means that we are more likely to believe something to be true if it rhymes. Think about it, how many times have you been told “i before e except after c” or “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and thought that they were sound advice? Though these phrases are not necessarily correct, they are often repeated and believed to be true.

 

So how does the Rhyme as Reason Effect work and what makes rhyming so persuasive anyway? Well heuristics, mental shortcuts that can help us make quick decisions and judgments, plays a big role. When this phenomenon was first studied, McGlone and Tofighbakhsh found that participants perceived aphorisms that rhymed to be more accurate than the modified non-rhyming version (“Life is mostly strife” over “Life is mostly struggle”), which demonstrates that there is bias for the rhyming aesthetic in a sentence. They also found that rhymes enhanced the fluency of statement which increased the perception of truth. Fluency is how easily something is processed; this heuristic can explain the effect because the faster and smoother something is processed, the more likely it is for us to think highly of it whether the item was logical or not. Because heuristics makes it easy for us to go for the simple answer without second-guessing our decision, we fall victim to the effect without even realizing it.

Not only are rhyming aphorisms easily processed and memorable, but they are also often repeated and passed down from generation to generation (e.g. “birds of a feather flock together”). In order to understand this a little bit more, we can refer to the cognitive processes of memory to explain why familiarity and repetition are so important. Familiarity is an automatic process that occurs when we experience something repeatedly, so when we hear rhyming aphorisms, we also unconsciously believe the statement to be true because it is familiar to us (Begg, Anas, & Farinacci, 1992). Thus, repeated exposure with these statements increases familiarity and make that information more salient, or accessible in our minds. Furthermore, if something is repeated enough time, it is more likely to be seen as a true statement; this is also called the illusory truth effect.

It is even harder for us to realize when we are under the Rhyme as Reason Effect because we grew up listening and reading nursery rhymes. We are experts at detecting rhymes with all that practice! Now how exactly does “The Cat the Hat” affect our perceptions and how we learn, you may wonder. Well, as we read more rhymes, we begin to develop more associations between what words rhyme, which develop our expectations for phrases that rhyme. A study by Sheingold and Foundas found that children were able to put the story in order better if it rhymed because the rhyming words provided cues that helped with the retrieval (to access memory for what was read) process.

Because we are constantly exposed to rhymes growing up, familiarity with words and phrases that rhymes also increase, and the recognition of a phrase that rhyme is automatic. This makes us more vulnerable to catchy catchphrase and commercials that uses rhymes to their advantage. In an age of commerce and technology, we are constantly being bombarded with advertisements everywhere we go. A study on how the Rhyme as Reasons Effect is used in commercials found that rhyming statements were more popular and easier to remember than non-rhyming statements, but the quality of the rhymes were also important as better rhymes were considered more trustworthy (Filkuková & Klempe, 2013). This study demonstrates the application of this effect on a day-to-day basis, and further emphasize how prevalent “aesthetic” is in our life as well as its effects on our choice and perception.

On a broader scale, the Rhyme as Reason Effect can also shift the scales of justice. One of the most well-known examples of this phenomenon occurred during the O.J Simpson murder trial in 1995 when Johnnie Cochran (O. J’s lawyer) said, “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” Cochran was referring to the bloodied glove found at the crime scene that was believed to belong to the murderer. Although the gloves were too small for O.J’s hand, this famous line helped his case as it may have swayed the jury’s judgment to simply focus on the gloves as evidence of innocence.

To conclude, the Rhyme as Reason Effect is a cognitive bias where we evaluate how true a statement is based on its aesthetic quality, and how easily it is processed by the brain. Often time, this effect occurs automatically because rhymes are easily remembered and repeated, thus allow us to recognize and expect it. However, just because something sounds catchy doesn’t mean that it is true.

References

Begg, I. M., Anas, A., & Farinacci, S. (1992). Dissociation of processes in belief: Source recollection, statement familiarity, and the illusion of truth. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General121(4), 446. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0096-3445.121.4.446

Filkuková, P., & Klempe, S. H. (2013). Rhyme as reason in commercial and social advertising. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology54(5), 423–431. https://doi.org/10.1111/sjop.12069

Sheingold, K., & Foundas, A. (1978). Rhymes for some reasons: Effect of Rhyme on Children’s Memory for Detail and Sequence in Simple Narratives. Psychological Reports43(3_suppl), 1231–1234. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1978.43.3f.1231

Unkelbach, C. (2007). Reversing the truth effect: Learning the interpretation of processing fluency in judgments of truth. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 33(1), 219-230.http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0278-7393.33.1.219

McGlone, M. S., & Tofighbakhsh, J. (2000). Birds of a feather flock conjointly (?): Rhyme as Reason in Aphorisms. Psychological Science11(5), 424–428. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9280.00282

 

It’s on the Ttt….Tip de mi Lengua: Differences in the Tip of the Tongue States for Bilingual and Monolinguals

April 26th, 2018 No comments

Picture this: you run into someone you met last week. You remember you had a great conversation with them and got along well. But, there’s one problem. You can’t, for the life of you, remember their name.  You know it started with an “A” and was a relatively short name, but you can’t quite say the name out loud as you greet them. It’s RIGHT there though, on the tip of your tongue. Luckily, another mutual friend comes up to both of you and says, “Oh, how do you know Abigail?” Ah, yes, Abigail Rhodes. You remember now.

We all know that feeling that accompanies not being able to articulate something we are confident we know or should know. And, there’s a name for that feeling: it’s called the tip of the tongue phenomenon (TOT).  The TOT occurrence is a cognitive bias that is named after the colloquial phrase “it’s on the tip of my tongue” and helps to provide insights into why, even if we know something, we are sometimes unable to verbalize our answer.

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I can’t remember her name… is this a sign of dementia?! The tip of the tongue effect and aging

April 24th, 2018 No comments

It’s a parasite. Small. Drills its way into unknowing individuals’ feet and proceeds to circulate their bloodstream. Common in areas with poor sanitation. I know this parasite from my global public health presentation from just last year. It starts with an ‘S’, maybe even a shhh sound? How could I not remember this? “Schistosomiasis”, my professor stated after what seemed like several frustrating minutes of attempting to recall the name for this parasite.

Why couldn’t I remember a word with which I am very familiar? One with which I spent hours researching on various databases, the CDC, even Wikipedia? It’s called the tip of the tongue (TOT) phenomenon, and if you’re anything like me, you likely experience this ever so maddening effect more frequently than you’d like. I’ve long since wondered about this phenomenon as whenever it happens to my Mum, she claims that she’s “losing [her] marbles” or is developing dementia. Does this mean that I’m developing dementia, too? Cognitively speaking, what is going on when you experience a TOT? But seriously, what is a TOT, anyways? Read more…

False memories in native and non-native English speakers

December 14th, 2017 1 comment

Memory – a simple word consisting of six letters. Memory – a term we frequently use to encompass a broad range of concepts. Memory – the thing that’s left after an event has long passed. But what happens when memory fails us? What happens when we fail to remember the past as accurately as we thought we would?

False memory

In cognitive research, false memories describe memories of events that did not take place or they happened quite differently from how they are remembered. The most common technique to induce false memories in a laboratory setting is a word learning paradigm called Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM), in which people study a list of words (such as bounce, throw, basket, bowling, and golf) that are all related to a common item (in this case, ball). When given a memory test people will often indicate that the non-presented common item (ball) was on the list with high confidence (Deese, 1959; Roediger & McDermott, 1995).

This is what researchers described as false memory: remembering something that did not happen.

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No One Ever Understands Me! Ah, yes – The Illusion of Transparency

April 17th, 2017 5 comments

Your world is collapsing. Okay no it’s not, but you are extremely stressed, sad, and worried. Do you ever wonder why no one seems to care that you’re feeling these things, or wish that someone would only ask if you’re okay? We all feel like this sometimes! But see, everybody else is not the problem. It’s not that people don’t care or don’t want to help (most likely); it’s just simply the fact that they may not even know you’re feeling like this. Think about the last time you gave a presentation in one of your classes or to a group of people. You’re standing up there, fidgeting, sweating, and you feel like your thoughts are jumbled and that your speech reflects that. You look into the crowd and see a girl twirling her hair – I must look like an idiot. You see someone else staring right at you and smiling – I must sound so stupid that he can’t help but stare directly at me. False! The girl is just bored and the boy is trying to show the teacher that he’s paying attention – so stop sweating and remain calm, you’re fine. These feelings are not out of the ordinary, in fact, they’re quite normal, and they can be attributed to the illusion of transparency.

That feeling when no one understands you…

The illusion of transparency is the tendency to believe that one’s internal states are more obvious to others than they actually are. We believe that the outside world can see and understand what we’re feeling and thinking, because we feel like we show our feelings, thoughts and emotions explicitly. However in reality, we overestimate the extent to which other people can tell what’s really going on inside our heads or what we’re trying to say. To test the theory out for yourself, watch this video to see if you can guess the song behind the rhythm! Or, to learn more about this illusion (after you’ve finished reading this post, of course), check out this other awesome post from the CogBlog! Additionally, many studies have been conducted that aim to look at why this happens, and to see if this illusion actually holds true when tested. Read more…

Reader, Do People Actually Know How You Feel? Welcome to Your Tape…

April 17th, 2017 6 comments

I recently got into this Netflix original called 13 Reasons Why. It’s an adaptation of a book with the same name that was probably on your summer “to read” booklist in middle school. It tells a story of a high school girl named Hannah who commits suicide and releases a set of cassette tapes to the people who were “instrumental” to her death. I put instrumental in quotation marks because we don’t really know what happened and we all know that memory could be untrustworthy; but that’s for another blog (This link will take you to another blog that talks about Confabulation). The question is why is this relevant in a blog about cognitive psychology?

Hannah from 13 Reasons Why

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Presidential election vs bilingualism: how does the framing effect impact our decision-making

April 17th, 2017 2 comments

Are you a logical thinker?

If you are a human being with a healthy dose of confidence, your answer is most likely “Sure, I use logic most of the time.” Or, if you identify with the virtue of modesty, you would probably say, “No guarantees, but I make my best effort.” If either of the above describes you, at one point or another the election of the 45th U.S. president was probably among the biggest mysteries for you. Hillary Clinton sure has had her fair share of scandals and hypocrisy, but so do many seasoned politicians; Donald Trump, on the other hand, had no political experience, more than a handful racist, sexist, and xenophobic statements, and multiple alleged sexual assaults. Furthermore, because of his background, Donald Trump is also under a lot of suspicion of abusing power for personal gains. How on earth did Donald Trump turn out so much more appealing in a presidential election?

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Why can’t I remember the name of the actor in my favorite movie?…I know I know it…it’s on the: Tip of the Tongue Phenomenon

April 17th, 2017 5 comments

mercercognitivepsychology.pbworks.com A accurate depiction of of TOT happening in our daily lives (minus buying tongues)

Remember that time when you were trying to recall the celebrity who plays the main character in your favorite movie? You knew that their name began with the letter L, that they were in another movie about dreams, and that they finally won an Oscar. You may even say, “it’s on the tip of my tongue”. But for some reason you just can’t recall their name (by the way it’s Leonardo Dicaprio). It is something we’ve all experienced, and it is called the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon (TOT).
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Finding Reason in Rhyme, Nearly Every Time

April 16th, 2017 No comments

Happiness, health, love, and money — what else would anyone need?  These most universal of human interests are often the center of common phrases, called aphorisms, that express some general principle about how our world works . . . or so they claim.  For example, we all know that great spenders are bad lenders, and surely, what sobriety conceals, alcohol reveals.  Many people are very familiar with these aphorisms through previous, repeated exposure to them.  One critical feature contributing to the popularity of these phrases is their rhyming pattern.  But how about the phrase an apple a day keeps you pretty healthy? Well, maybe not. The botched rhyme in this last phrase makes us question the truth behind the statement.  This is due to the Rhyme-as-Reason Effect.  This effect is a cognitive bias by which people judge the validity and accuracy of a statement as being more true if the statement rhymes.  So, although the aphorisms are very vague, the use of rhyme as a rhetorical device asserts their claim in a more persuasive way.   Read more…

Gesturing and Tip of the Tongue: How flailing your arms can cure a TOT state

December 19th, 2015 No comments
tip of the tongue

http://mercercognitivepsychology.pbworks.com/w/page/32859313/Tip-of-the-Tongue%20Phenomenon

Do you ever think of a word or phrase and you know you know it, you just can’t seem to find it? You’re frustrated and want so badly to be able to say the word, one might even say it’s at the tip of your tongue. This feeling is called a tip-of-the-tongue state, or the TOT phenomenon. It’s likely that on top on this frustrating experience, you are flailing your hands around trying to gesture the word at the tip of your tongue. This TOT phenomenon is when information is available in your memory it is just not accessible. When in a TOT state, a person is experiencing blocking, where they are not able to retrieve information that is known. The information is being blocked. Although you may look strange doing so, gesturing may actually be the thing that helps you retrieve that word you so desperately want to access. Don’t worry, you don’t just look like a crazy person for no rhyme or reason! You’re trying to find that nagging word!
Gestures, which are body or limb movements, can be characterized as an element of a word’s meaning in a person’s mental representation. A person’s mental representation is a bank of everything they know; it is what our cognitive procsses are operating on and it is a topic in our mind that represents something in our reality. Humans often pair certain gestures with different words based on possible functions or shapes of a word that is an inanimate object, or actions of a word that is an animate object.

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