A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi

Verbalization Bias in Evaluation

Authors

  • Matthew S. McGlone,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Texas at Austin
      Department of Communication Studies, College of Communication, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station A1105, Austin, TX 78712; email: matthew_mcglone@mail.utexas.edu.
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  • Diane Kobrynowicz,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Texas at Austin
      Department of Communication Studies, College of Communication, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station A1105, Austin, TX 78712; email: matthew_mcglone@mail.utexas.edu.
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  • Ryan B. Alexander

    1. Independent Researcher
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Department of Communication Studies, College of Communication, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station A1105, Austin, TX 78712; email: matthew_mcglone@mail.utexas.edu.

Abstract

People's evaluations of stimuli may change when they verbally attempt to communicate the reasons underlying their judgments. The reported experiments demonstrate the interactive influence of expertise, verbalizability (i.e., the ease with which stimulus features can be linguistically encoded), and appraisal mode in the verbalization bias phenomenon. In Experiment 1, art novices and experts rated their liking of artworks with compositional features that were easy (e.g., figurative–naturalistic) or difficult (e.g., abstract) to verbalize. When asked to verbalize the reasons underlying their judgments, novices assigned lower ratings to abstract but not figurative works. Experts, in contrast, were not influenced by the verbalization manipulation. Experiment 2 explored the possibility that verbalization bias is attributable to a componential appraisal mode that verbalization induces, rather than the specific reasons that people articulate. We found that verbalizing reasons for liking or disliking one abstract work influenced art novices' judgments of a second work for which they did not attempt to verbalize reasons. Moreover, those who merely attempted to verbalize their perceptual experiences also exhibited this contamination effect. The results of both studies suggest that verbalizing the attributes of complex stimuli can significantly alter the way we evaluate these stimuli.

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