Why do people believe crazy stuff? In this project, we study how people process persuasive messages of different design and within different interactional structures, relying on psycho-linguistic theories of language processing and associated research methods (e.g., self-paced reading, eye tracking, EEG). Through this approach, we gain insights into people’s immediate and, in part, unconscious responses to persuasive attempts. In addition, we use the framework of discursive psychology to study how cognitive states are negotiated in interaction. We have a particular interest in the role of linguistic properties of arguments (e.g., semantics/valency of words used, grammatical properties of sentences, such as voice, aspect, and evidentiality, and specific discourse markers) and manipulations thereof, for ease/difficulty of processing. Further, it will allow us to compare responses on these online measures of processing to people’s offline assessment of persuasive messages, shedding light on the effectiveness of their design.

Student projects

Roosmarijn Rentier is analyzing the variations in the impact of the belief bias effect on participants evaluating invalid arguments. She does this by testing the acceptability rate of several forms of invalid arguments having an acceptable statement of fact or statement of value as their conclusion.

Erynn Young is studying how racist presumptions appear in argumentative discourse on Instagram. She uses membership categorization analysis to reconstruct implicit premises, showing which predicates and actions are tied to different implicit and explicit racial categories.

Ermioni Seremata is carrying out empirical research on the interaction between logical and pragmatic validity of arguments. Participants are asked to rate the acceptability of logically and pragmatically valid and invalid arguments.

Nora de Haas examines the effect of non-native English accents on the willingness to perform requests. Participants rate how likely it is that they will perform requests pronounced in different accents and formulated using positive and negative politeness strategies.

Anna Mihlic is studying the effect of “mansplaining” on speaker perception, understanding the concept as providing superfluous arguments for something already accepted by the hearer. Participants are asked to rate the “mansplainer” on likeability and masculinity / femininity.

The projects are supervised by Monique Flecken, Menno Reijven and Jean Wagemans.


Journal Article – Kamenetski, A., Lai, V. T., & Flecken, M. (2022). Minding the manner: attention to motion events in Turkish–Dutch early bilingualsLanguage and Cognition14(3), 456-478.

Journal Article – Misersky, J., Peeters, D., & Flecken, M. (2022).  The Potential of Immersive Virtual Reality for the Study of Event PerceptionFrontiers in Virtual Reality3, [697934].