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Word Order and Cognitive Processes

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Maria Laura Bettinsoli
added a research item
Health messages are central to the field of public health in influencing behavioral change, and previous research does not offer a univocal answer on the most effective ordering of health outcomes and (un)healthy behaviors within health communication. An archival study revealed that online mass-media communicators tend to mention behaviors first. This strategy was questioned in two experimental studies (Ntot=158) examining the impact of word order on behavioral intention. Specifically, by manipulating the mentioning order of health outcomes (i.e., effect-first vs. effect-later) within a health message, results revealed a subtle role of word-order. English and Italian middle-aged men were more willing to change unhealthy habits after being exposed to a health-related message following the effect-first order rather than the effect-later order. Besides extending the comprehension of the role of word-order in socio-cognitive processes, our findings provide health communicators feedback about subtle linguistic strategies while dealing with health messages construction.
Maria Laura Bettinsoli
added a research item
People generally perceive a stronger link between smoking and cancer than between cancer and smoking. Generally, prior research on asymmetrical causal reasoning has not distinguished predictive (searching for effects) and diagnostic reasoning (searching for causes) from the order in which causes and effects are presented. Across 6 studies (overall N = 627), we show that order and reasoning have an additive influence on the causality perception: causes, spatially or temporally presented before the effect, strengthen the causality attribution associated to predictive (vs. diagnostic) frames. Moreover, we show that order and reasoning frame are bi-directionally related, as the cause-first order triggers predictive reasoning and vice versa, and people mentally maintain the cause-first order when envisaging a causal relation. Besides its methodological contribution to the causal reasoning literature, this research demonstrates the powerful role of word order in causal reasoning. Implications for the role of word order in communication and risk prevention are discussed.
Maria Laura Bettinsoli
added 2 research items
Languages differ with respect to the standard order in which subject (S), object (O) and verb (V) are arranged. Two studies, using a translation paradigm and conducted in Italian and in English, tested whether the order in which S, O and V are mentioned in active sentences will impact the causal interpretation of the described event. We hypothesized and found that participants attribute an event more to a specific cause when the relevant element occurs in the first rather than in a later (2nd or 3rd) position. Findings are discussed with respect to within-language and cross-language variations of word order.