The Influence of Cognitive Fluency

We’ve seen before how the cognitive fluency (how ‘easy’ it is to think of or comprehend something) of restaurant menus, stock ticker codes and physical exercises influence how complex, risky and even beautiful we perceive them to be.

A recent PsyBlog article provides a summary of a number of cognitive fluency studies and here are the ones I’ve not seen before (some of which I wouldn’t have even considered to be related to cognitive fluency):

  • A writer is perceived as having a higher intelligence if his writing is uncomplicated.
  • Non-native residents of a country are thought of more negatively than the natives.
  • Fluent speakers are regarded as being more knowledgeable and intelligent (although it was also found that hesitations in speech cause specific words to be remembered more than others–the word(s) directly following the hesitation).
  • A block of text describing a product can double the amount of people willing to purchase that product if it is written in an easy-to-read font.
  • Physical (sensorimotor) fluency causes pleasure.
  • Cognitive fluency allows us to reason quickly and effortlessly.

The article concludes with:

Like mathematicians searching for the shortest formula to describe a complex phenomenon, we should all be obsessed with simplicity, because in simplicity lies beauty and the human mind, as we’ve just seen, finds it difficult to resist.