Photos That Increase Feelings of Learning Promote Positive Evaluations

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Research shows that when semantic context makes it feel easier for people to bring related thoughts and images to mind, people can misinterpret that feeling of ease as evidence that information is positive. But research also shows that semantic context does more than help people bring known concepts to mind—it also teaches people new concepts. In five experiments, we show that when photos increase these feelings of learning, they also increase positive evaluations. People saw fictitious wine names and evaluated claims about each. Within subjects, wine names appeared with (or without) photos depicting the noun in the names. We found that photos promoted positive evaluations, did so most when they were most likely to help people learn new words, and even led people to think the wines tasted better. Together, these findings fit with the idea that semantic context promotes positive evaluations in part by teaching people new concepts.

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