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Evidence Quality and Persuasiveness: Germans Are Not Sensitive to the Quality of Statistical Evidence

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Abstract For a long time, research in communication and argumentation has investigated which kinds of evidence are most effective in changing people’s beliefs in descriptive claims. For each type of evidence, such as statistical or expert evidence, high-quality and low-quality variants exist, depending on the extent to which evidence respects norms for strong argumentation. Studies have shown that participants are sensitive to such quality variations in some, but not in all, cultures. This paper expands such work by comparing the persuasiveness of high- and low-quality statistical and expert evidence for participants from two geographically close cultures, the Dutch and the German. Study 1, in which participants (N=150) judge a number of claims with evidence, underscores earlier findings that high-quality is more persuasive than low-quality evidence for the Dutch, and – surprisingly – also shows that this is less the case for the Germans, in particular for statistical evidence. Study 2 with German participants (N=64) shows that again they are not sensitive to the quality of statistical evidence, and rules out that this finding can be attributed to their understanding of the rules of generalisation. Together, the findings in this paper underline the need to empirically investigate what norms people from different cultures have for high-quality evidence, and to what extent these norms matter for persuasive success.

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Language Studies, Communication and Information Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen Erasmusplein 1, P.O. Box 9103, 6500 HD Nijmegen The Netherlands


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