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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Persuasive Effects of Stylistic Variation in the Restaurant Review Domain

  • Author(s): Buckley, Dhyana
  • Advisor(s): Anand, Pranav
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

The effects of stylistic variation on the cognitive processing of a text has been a topic of debate within linguistics. We extend our understanding of how stylistic variation plays a role in modifying a reader's perception of a text into a new domain by looking at tense variation within restaurant reviews. Motivation for this stylistic variation is speculated to be driven by persuasive ability (i.e. to increase persuasive quality of a text). Several criteria have been identified to elicit narrative persuasion (emotionality, identification with the author, and transportation into a text), although there has not been a formal study to examine these factors in relation to the historical present. In this article we present two parallel studies designed to test how review sentences in past tense and historical present tense are perceived based on these criteria. We tested over 75 native English speakers of English asking them to judge either historical present or past tense negative restaurant review sentences based on four different criteria (persuasion, emotionality, identification, and transportation) using two different acceptability rating tasks (five-point scale). We find evidence of a relationship between the historical present and an increase in transportation and emotionality using a variety of statistical analysis techniques, including t-tests and regression analysis. We also find a relationship between past tense and identification. We interpret increased levels of emotionality and transportation as an indication that the historical present has the ability to influence a reader's cognitive processing of a text.

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