(Psy Blog) The Illusion of Truth
Repetition is used everywhere—advertising, politics and the media—but does it really persuade us? Psychology studies reveal all… We see ads for the same products over and over again. Politicians repeat the same messages endlessly (even when it has nothing to do with the question they’ve been asked). Journalists repeat the same opinions day after day.
Can all this repetition really be persuasive? It seems too simplistic that just repeating a persuasive message should increase its effect, but that’s exactly what psychological research finds (again and again). Repetition is one of the easiest and most widespread methods of persuasion. In fact it’s so obvious that we sometimes forget how powerful it is.
People rate statements that have been repeated just once as more valid or true than things they’ve heard for the first time. They even rate statements as truer when the person saying them has been repeatedly lying (Begg et al., 1992).
And when we think something is more true, we also tend to be more persuaded by it. Several studies have shown that people are more swayed when they hear statements of opinion and persuasive messages more than once.
Easy to understand = true
This is what psychologists call the illusion of truth effect and it arises at least partly because familiarity breeds liking. As we are exposed to a message again and again, it becomes more familiar. Because of the way our minds work, what is familiar is also true. Familiar things require less effort to process and that feeling of ease unconsciously signals truth (this is called cognitive fluency).