Words Mean Things
We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.
—GEORGE ORWELL, ADELPHI
In 2008, psychologist Christopher Bryan and his research team at Stanford University made a startling discovery: people’s voting behavior could hinge on a word. Surveying registered Californians, they asked half the respondents whether they’d vote and the other half what seems like the same thing, only phrased a bit differently. In the second group, they asked each person if he or she intended to “be a voter.”
The difference was stunning. Where just over 50 percent of the people asked about voting said that they intended to do so, 87.5 percent of respondents questioned about being a ...