Yale and the 12 magical words
reported on Allan and Barbara Pease's allusion to a University of
California study identifying the twelve most persuasive words, the
hounds of Language Log have been searching for a source. Andy
Hollandbeck wrote that he'd poked around and found nothing that could
be connected to the University of California, but did find three
references to a study at Yale with exactly the same results (or,
perhaps, "results"). Mark
Liberman also ended up at Yale, via another set of articles giving
advice for businesspeople, ad writers, and the like. All
I've now added five more to Hollandbeck's list. Summary to follow.
But first, a small criticism of Mark's parenthetical remark:
And though the University of California
has a bewildering number of campuses, I'm pretty sure that none of them
is named "Yale".
The number of University of California campuses is scarcely
bewildering. It is 10, recently up from the 9 with the addition
of Merced. I am able, in fact, to list them in a few seconds
without looking anything up.
California State University, on the other hand, has 23 campuses, and I
couldn't list them all to save my life.
Now the references to the elusive Yale University study. The
first three are from Hollandbeck. The other five are some new
ones I got from a Google web search on <"Yale University" "powerful
words">; these are from the first 50 of the ca. 591 hits I
got. The Yale study has a larger web presence than even this list
would suggest, since some of these columns have been reprinted on
several sites; I list the first site I found, without any attempt to
trace things back to their original sources.
Each entry gives:
the author, with a link to one site for
the title of article, plus date if the article is dated
how the words are characterized
how Yale's involvement is referred to in the article
the number of words in the list. If this is 12, without further
note, the words are exactly as in my previous posting; otherwise,
divergences are noted.
"Yale University Researchers Reveal 12 Powerful Words To Increase Your
"researchers at Yale University"
"Secret Formulas for Writing Headlines That Sell"
"according to a Yale University study"
"Copywriting Principles for Successful Headlines" (4/29/06)
"most personal and persuasive"
"recent research conducted at Yale University"
"Words That Work!"
"Yale University considers these..."
"The Seven Second Race: How to Draw Attention Your Ad [sic]"
"according to Yale University"
10 ("proved" instead of "proven"; "love" and "need" missing)
"Marketing the 13 Power Words"
"very powerful words"
"a study done at Yale University"
12 (+ "free" added by Wadleigh)
"Winning at Work" column, "A tip to improve public speaking" (9/5/05)
"Yale University researchers"
"Tips On Writing a Successfull [sic] Ad"
"researchers at Yale University"
12 (+ "free" added by Bell)
I'm a bit alarmed by the attributions to Yale as a whole ("Yale
University considers these...", "according to Yale University").
I would hate to see some of my Language Log postings characterized as
the opinion of Stanford University, and I'm sure the Stanford
administration feels the same way.
In any case, this little inventory illustrates how ideas can diffuse
rapidly (and, in this case, with reasonable fidelity) within a
community and how the attractiveness of the ideas, their fit to folk
beliefs, can lead people to accept them without even wondering where
they came from -- or, of course, whether they are verifiable.
zwicky at-sign csli period stanford period edu
Posted by Arnold Zwicky at October 11, 2006 05:08 PM