New perspectives on the expression of quantity

Authors: Sanford, Anthony J.; Moxey, Linda M.

Source: Current Directions in Psychological Science, Volume 12, Number 6, December 2003 , pp. 240-243(4)

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

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Abstract:

The expression of quantity is central to many acts of communication, both formal and casual. Expressions of quantity, whether in numbers and percentages or in language, are used to convey information about frequency, certainty, risk, and degrees of association. It has typically been supposed that the many linguistic expressions that convey quantities are merely vague ways of indicating information that would be better conveyed by numbers and percentages, whenever possible. However, we show that such a view is too simplistic and is misleading. Language expressions can be more informative than numerical information alone. Language expressions carry built-in perspectives that affect the inferences and decisions made by listeners and readers. We also show that information presented through numbers (e.g., the depiction of fat content of foods) is not necessarily neutral, but also induces perspective. Failure to recognize effects of perspective may have led to some false conclusions about how people attribute causation.
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