The Language Comprehension Continuum

Below is an example of communication error — Penn and Teller use strong emotional language and delivery to hide the true meaning of the message.

In context — a pretty young woman anxiously and passionately asking individuals at a faire to protect the environment — signing the petition makes sense. People sign many petitions. And the more people sign (or the more signatures they see on the petition), the more likely others sign as well.

A woman, seemingly in distress over an environmental problem, inspires an emotional reaction — people want to help. We have a built-in social value system that encourages this kind of behavior.

And finally there’s a strong p-prim that all chemicals are bad — so just hearing a chemical compound in a petition gets a response from the crowd.

The result? On the language comprehension continuum, these faire goers didn’t do so well…