On fluency and disfluency

I’m an avid Evernote user. Every day, I add and tag articles by the dozen. The tricky part with Evernote is that you have to actually use it over a long-enough period to finally realize its usefulness.

Over time, I realized there were pages I came across that are more than worth adding to my stash, they were a notch or two above that. So I created a special category for them, “simply brilliant!”, with the exclamation mark included. I’m very mindful about what goes in there; after months of use I only have 4 such pages clipped to this category.

Today I added a fifth one, and I think the most brilliant so far, too.

In this conversation Jeniffer Jacquet of Edge discusses the concept of fluency (or lack of thereof) with psychologist Adam Alter, assistant professor of marketing at Stern School of Business, NYU. This specific notion got me hooked and listening:

when you have a thought, any thought, it falls along a continuum from fluent to disfluent. A fluent thought is one that feels subjectively easy to have.

As a non-native writer, I’m always (perhaps overly) concerned with 3 aspects of my work: coherency, fluency, and flow. That is, how clear is the message I’m trying to convey, how technically-natural it would feel to read such a message, and how accessible is the structure of my piece as a whole. I often find myself struggling with seemingly basic concepts of language and writing, something that has hindered my efforts to write anything at all in the past.

The video on Edge doesn’t only tackle fluency in writing, it also examines how fluency and disfluency affect most aspects of our lives: relationships, education, marketing, and politics. It’s truly a spectacular review in the regard that it also includes some counter-intuitive findings:

But if you present the questions in a font that’s a little bit more difficult to read, we found that you can increase their accuracy pretty dramatically. They make fewer of those intuitive responses. They take the time to reconsider their initial responses. They assume that the task is more difficult. They have a bit less confidence in their initial response, and so they tend to do a little bit better at the task.

disfluency leads you to think more deeply, as I mentioned earlier, that it forms a cognitive roadblock, and then you think more deeply, and you work through the information more comprehensively.

It’s quite a long one, mind you – 30 minutes of video, or about six thousand words if you’d rather read than watch — but it’s worth every minute of your time, regardless of what you do. Grab a cup of coffee, and give it a chance.

Disfluency on Edge (via askblog)

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