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The Rhyme-As-Reason Phenomenon

The fact that you can remember your favourite song lyrics from ten years ago, yet you can’t remember what you studied last night is not entirely a coincidence. Studies suggest that you are more likely to remember, believe in and repeat any statements which comprise of a rhyme. This is known as the Rhyme-as-Reason effect.

This type of cognitive bias has been used for centuries to persuade, impact and convince people to believe in a certain cause. Think about the following phrases:

  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away
  • Easy peasy lemon squeezy
  • If you can’t do the time, do not do the crime.
  • Fake it till you make it
  • See you later, Alligator
  • Goodnight, sleep tight
  • You snooze, you lose
  • What’s the deal, banana peel?
  • Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning.
  • A friend in need is a friend indeed.

As you can see, the statements mentioned above do not make much sense even though they are ingrained into the mainstream language that we speak. This is caused by the Rhyme-as-Reason effect.

The use of this technique

People can use this cognitive bias to persuade a group of individuals into seeing this perspective. An extremely famous example of this was the trial of O.J Simpson in which OJ’s lawyer used the phrase, “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” to discard the idea that O.J committed the murder as the gloves did not fit him.

Similarly, this approach is used by a myriad of students to help them remember and recall the learned information during exams. For example, if you have an exam that requires knowledge of words that you are unfamiliar with, you can hire a write my assignment for me company and make rhymes to remember terms by the time the writing company works on the assignment.

An example of this is seen in one of the episodes of Hannah Montana where Miley couldn’t remember the names of the bones for her test, so she made a song and danced about it. This essentially helped her remember the terms.

The Rhyme-as-Reason effect is also used by advertising companies to persuade customers to purchase their product. This makes the customers remember their slogans, which also convinces them to buy it.

The explanation behind this effect

Several ideas can explain the Rhyme-as-reason effect.

Keats heuristics

The first explanation to tackle this phenomenon is that rhyming can augment the aesthetics of the statement, which makes it easier for people to believe it. Keats Heuristics is a mental, time-saving technique that individuals apply when they are building their perception regarding the accuracy of a certain statement, based on their sentence’s aesthetic qualities.

The name ‘Keats Heuristics’ was given to the phenomenon after the line in one of Keats’s poems, which stated, “Beauty is the truth, truth beauty.” This statement signifies that people tend to perceive things to be true if they are attractive in their form. For instance, have you ever noticed that people are more likely to believe the people they find attractive in contrast to those who are relatively unattractive?

Research suggests that people are more likely to use heuristics in case of events when they do not have the required knowledge or expertise in an area. Additionally, the lack of motivation or evidence compels a person to subconsciously rely on this technique before basing their judgment on a certain statement.

This works as the dependence on aesthetics allows the sentence to become relatively well-thought-out, thus being perceived as attractive. As a result, the attractive sentence is thought to be more honest and accurate.

Fluency Heuristics

Another explanation for this phenomenon is that rhyming tends to improve the fluency of statements. People are more likely to be persuaded by rhyme as a result of fluency heuristics. This means that people tend to give a higher degree of regard to statements that they find easier to process. Hence, they believe things that they can process easily.

For instance, the statement, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” is more believable as the information provided in it is easier to process in the form of a rhyme. Essentially, as it is easier to process, the probability of people finding it to be truthful is higher.

In addition to this, the sentences that are easier to process are more aesthetically pleasing. This emphasises on the Keats’s Heuristics of the statement as well, thus making it appear more truthful than it is.

Research has further revealed that rhyming can increase prosodic processing, which is the processing of the structure of the statement, but not semantic processing that is the processing of the content of the statement. Nevertheless, rhymes are still impactful in convincing people to accept its truthfulness.

Familiarity mechanism

Rhyme-as-Reason can also be explained by the fact that rhyming affects the familiarity of the sentence. As the rhymes are repeated several times, you are more likely to remember them. This frequency of recall can make the statement more familiar, thereby making it easier to accept and believe.

For example, advertisement companies that use rhymes in their television ads have a higher customer base as the rhymes are repeated over and over again. This repetition provides a sense of familiarity with the customer. Hence, they perceive the content of the rhyme to be true.

Additionally, as rhymes are easier for people to remember, they are more likely to believe in it as this is the only information that they have. The increased rate of recall influences the perception of the statement being true.

Thus, Rhyme-as-Reason effect can be used in various situations. You can use it to create a marketing campaign for your company, or you can simply trick yourself into remembering the content of your exam. Also, you can prevent yourself from falling into the trap of this cognitive bias by identifying the true meaning of a statement.


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