Processing fluency is used as a basis for various types of judgment. For example, previous research has shown that people judge food additives with names that are more difficult to pronounce (i.e., that are disfluent) to be more harmful. We explored the possibility that the association between disfluency and perceived harmfulness might be in the opposite direction for some categories of stimuli. Although we found some support for this hypothesis, an improved analysis and further studies indicated that the effect was strongly dependent on the stimuli used. We then used stimulus sampling and showed that the original association between fluency and perceived safety was not replicable with the newly constructed stimuli. We found the association between fluency and perceived safety using the newly constructed stimuli in a final study, but only when pronounceability was confounded with word length. The results cast doubt on generalizability of the association between pronounceability and perceived safety and underscore the importance of treating stimulus as a random factor.
Citation: Bahník, Š., & Vranka, M. (2017). If it’s difficult to pronounce, it might not be risky: The effect of fluency on judgment of risk does not generalize to new stimuli. Psychological Science