Is Your Language Making You Broke and Fat?

Keith Chen, an economist from Yale, makes a startling claim: people's fiscal responsibility and healthy lifestyle choices depend in part on how the grammar of their language encodes the concept of future time.

This Year's Juicy Books on Thinking, Persuasion and Language

2011 has yielded a slew of smart new books that provide some deep and fascinating insights about what it means to be a thinking, speaking, influencing and influenceable human being. Here are a few of my favorites.

The Decisions of the Powerful: When Confidence Leads to Sloppy Thinking

Corner offices. Tall and plush leather chairs. The swaggering gait and confident postures. Walk into an office environment, and it's usually not hard to guess which people hold the positions of power. But do all these trimmings and reminders of the power hierarchy really make for the best decision-making among those who are in charge?

Get People to Start Agreeing with You

In the art of persuasion, timing, as they say, is everything. For example, if you decide to ask your boss for a salary raise, you might try to gauge just the right moment to make your request. Here's a hint: Make your pitch just after she's heard a presentation by her favorite employee.

Nod Your Head if You Agree with Yourself: How Your Own Body Language Can Persuade You

I don’t see the body language gurus dispensing advice about how to interpret your own body language. What if we use our own body language as clues to what we are thinking? And what if these clues can shape our attitudes?

Are You a Mac or a Mac User? How the Language of Identity Persuades

Do you think of yourself as a beer-drinker, or do you merely drink beer? Are you a Democrat, or do you just vote for Democratic candidates? Wielding the right language to tap into people's sense of identity can make for potent persuasion.

Think you can't be persuaded by ads you ignore? Think again

It’s no surprise to advertisers that people rarely devote their full brainpower to the ads that are lobbed at them. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the ads have no impact on consumers. Sometimes, it can mean the opposite.

Can Nostalgic Advertising Re-Write Your Childhood Memories?

Our unreliable trips down memory lane suggest that advertisers have much to gain from tweaking our reminiscences.

Fiction as stealth persuasion

The fictional words and actions of entirely made-up characters who have never drawn a breath in the real world can impact our attitudes and behavior more powerfully than the pleas or arguments of real flesh-and-blood people talking to us about real things in the actual world. Why should this be?

Your best defense against advertising may be your unconscious mind

Evidence is piling up that commercial messages may affect us in many ways that we're not aware of. But it seems we have a defensive system—one that can be turned on by our unconscious mind.

Politically Correct Animal Language

The editors of the Journal of Animal Ethics have called for re-vamping animal language. So-called negative words like "pets" or "wildlife," they say, should be replaced by "companion animals" and "free-living animals." Could changing the language also change attitudes towards animals?

Do Obama/Osama Slips of the Tongue Reveal Racist Attitudes?

Over the last few days, in the flurry of excited talk about the killing of Osama bin Laden, I’ve heard at least five slips of the tongue in which the name “Osama” was substituted for “Obama.” Do these "Freudian" slips of the tongue reveal racist attitudes equating the U.S. President with dangerous terrorists?

Avant-garde ads: A secret weapon of the right wing?

When befuddled by what seem like nonsensical messages, people tend to launch in hot pursuit of meaning elsewhere—including traditional social structures.

Why do politicians sling mud? Because it sticks

We profess to hate negative attack ads in politics. But when it comes to negative campaigning, genteel social norms get some push-back from psychological mechanisms that give dirty politics an edge over keeping it clean.

The language of power in the anti-prestige age

We expect broadcasters to have a little bit of linguistic class, and this includes not dropping g's and turning ing into in', pronouncing nuclear as nucular, or seasoning their speech with generous dashes of double negatives. But Presidents, it seems, are an entirely different matter.

An Apple a Day Keeps the PC Away

It's hard to imagine nowadays, but it used to be that when it came time to name a company or a product, someone would just trot out a perfectly sensible, serviceable name like General Motors or International Business Machines. Practical yes, but a bit drab—not to mention possibly missing out on opportunities for linguistic product placement.

Subliminal seduction gets a second glance

Salacious images in ice cubes? Subliminal commands in movie theaters? Years after the de-bunking of myths of advertising mind control, we're coming to realize that unconscious responses to persuasion are just a part of daily cognition.

Would You Like a Frappe with Your Burger?

We often choose consumer products and adopt regional dialects, whether consciously or not, in order to project a certain social identity. With American dialects pulling apart and becoming more distinct from each other, even big corporations like McDonald's want to be part of your in-group.  TV commercials are starting to talk to you in your own accent.

The Other Reason Why “iPad” Is a Dumb Name

When Apple unveiled its new tablet computer, you'd think there were no women at the meeting.  Or anyone from Chicago for that matter.  Here's how America's most radical dialect change can cause some serious brand-name confusion.