In a recent commentary, industry magnate Richard Branson said: “I am a big believer in the power of language to change the world. The way we communicate, whether verbally, digitally or physically, has a massive effect on how we work, live and learn.” He talks about his fascination with words: the way they could mean many things for many people, the way they come to exist and how they “define” our mood.
Indeed, words affect our mood — and much more: our ability to recall past events, our behaviour and our opinion, too. They can even implant false memories! In the famous Loftus-Palmer experiment researchers have shown a group of students short films of traffic accidents. The students were then asked a question where the verb was manipulated: “About how fast were the cars going when they smashed / collided / bumped / hit / contacted each other?” The research has shown that the estimated speed of the cars was greatly affected by the verb used in the question. In the follow-up experiment, where the students were exposed to manipulated questions, those who were asked “How fast were the cars going when they smashed each other?” were much more likely to recall seeing broken glass then those whose question contained the word hit. Continue reading