Letter Sequences Matter (09-30-19)

King and Auschaitrakul evaluated how patterns in the first letters of words in statements influence conclusions drawn; their findings are relevant when brand claims are presented, for example.  The researchers determined that “consumers are able to unconsciously perceive the mere sequence of symbols contained in a brand claim, and . . . this sequence information influences judgments of truth. Across three experiments, we showed that when a brand claim is structured in a way that is consistent with the natural sequence of symbols (‘A causes B’ rather than ‘B causes A’), people experience feelings of sequential fluency, which in turn influences judgments of truth. This occurs despite the inability of participants to attribute the true source of the feelings. Our results suggest that carefully designed brand claims are likely to benefit from this natural sequencing.”  What these findings mean in practice is that if the first letters of a claim follow alphabetical order then that claim is perceived to be more truthful.  An example of a claim in which the words are in alphabetical order:  Aspirin beats headaches.

Dan King and Sumitra Auschaitrakul.  “Symbolic Sequence Effects on Consumers’ Judgments of Truth for Brand Claims.”  Journal of Consumer Psychology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1002/jcpy.1132