Birds of a feather flock conjointly (?): rhyme as reason in aphorisms

Psychol Sci. 2000 Sep;11(5):424-8. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.00282.


We explored the role that poetic form can play in people's perceptions of the accuracy of aphorisms as descriptions of human behavior. Participants judged the ostensible accuracy of unfamiliar aphorisms presented in their textually surviving form or a semantically equivalent modified form. Extant rhyming aphorisms in their original form (e.g., "What sobriety conceals, alcohol reveals") were judged to be more accurate than modified versions that did not preserve rhyme ("What sobriety conceals, alcohol unmasks"). However, the perceived truth advantage of rhyming aphorisms over their modified forms was attenuated when people were cautioned to distinguish aphorisms' poetic qualities from their semantic content. Our results suggest that rhyme, like repetition, affords statements an enhancement in processing fluency that can be misattributed to heightened conviction about their truthfulness.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Processes*
  • Perception*
  • Poetry as Topic*
  • Semantics
  • Truth Disclosure