Publications

Fluency of consistency: When thoughts fit nicely and flow smoothly

Cognition influences affect – sometimes dramatically, as when a crafty political speech rises passions, and moves people to lofty or dangerous endeavors. However, many cognition-affect interactions are subtle. A fuzzy text or a noisy reception triggers annoyance. A harmonious chord or a symmetric design elicits pleasure. Recognizing a familiar face produces a sense of warm glow. There is something ” off ” in our colleague's explanation of an event. Our chapter deals with these subtle interactions. Specifically, we address how everyday evaluative responses depend on fluency – ease or difficulty of information processing. Further, we show how the mechanisms linking fluency and evaluation can be understood using a combination of psychological experimentation and computer modeling. The unique aspect of the present contribution, besides offering several theoretical refinements and an empirical update on our respective programs of research, is that we address how the notion of fluency relates to the notion of consistency and related concepts, such as coherence and dissonance. That is, we will explore how fluency and consistency phenomena are similar and different from each other, both conceptually and empirically. We will also show how they can be precisely modeled using a computational framework. The structure of our contribution is roughly as follows. First, we distinguish various sources of evaluative responses – non-specific processing dynamics and specific feature-based information. This then allows us to address the similarities and differences between the concepts of fluency and consistency. Next, we describe empirical work suggesting that evaluative reactions to fluency can explain several common preference phenomena. Finally, we describe some computational models of fluency and consistency. Fluency and features. A visitor arrives in Warsaw and sees several faces in the airport's arrival hall. Some she identifies as Polish, some she does not. Some she recognizes, some she does not. Some she likes, some she does not. Why? One obvious source of her reactions is the ” what ” of processing – the stimulus' specific features. For example, detecting a round face with high cheekbones suggests that the person is Polish. Detecting a particular mustache on a waving greeter triggers recognition of the visitor's host. Detecting a smile – ” the curve that sets everything straight ” – triggers positive affect. In addition, however, there is the ” how ” of processing – the dynamics of perceptual and conceptual operations on the stimulus. These dynamic parameters include processing speed and