The paper provides novel theoretical and experimental perspectives on the functioning of linguistic vagueness as an implicit persuasive strategy. It presents an operative definition of pragmatically marked vagueness, referring to vague expressions whose interpretation is not retrievable by recipients. The phenomenon is illustrated via numerous examples of its use in predominantly persuasive texts (i.e., advertising and political propaganda) in different languages. The psycholinguistic functioning of vague expressions is then illustrated by the results of a self-paced reading task experiment. Data showing shorter reading times associated with markedly vague expressions as compared to expressions that are either (a) lexically more precise or (b) made precise by the context suggest that the former are interpreted in a shallow way, without searching for and/or retrieving exact referents. These results support the validity of a differentiation between context-supported vs. non-supported vague expressions. Furthermore, validation of using marked vagueness as a persuasive implicit strategy which reduces epistemic vigilance is provided.
Mannaioli, G., Ansani, A., Coppola, C., Lombardi Vallauri, E. (2024). Vagueness as an implicit-encoding persuasive strategy: an experimental approach. COGNITIVE PROCESSING [10.1007/s10339-023-01171-z].