How can people effectively change other people’s minds and behavior? In this project, we study how people process persuasive messages of different designs, 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 messages of different types and forms. We have a particular interest in the role of specific linguistic properties of arguments (e.g., semantics/valency of words used, grammatical properties of sentences, such as voice, aspect, evidentiality), 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.

Current projects

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.

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.

The projects are supervised by Monique Flecken and Jean Wagemans.

Activities and publications

KeynoteMonique Flecken will give a keynote lecture at the third international workshop CARLA, as part of the Bolzano Summer of Knowledge (BOSK) 2021, hosted by the Research Centre for Knowledge and Data of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano.