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Ambiguity

 

Techniques General persuasion > Creating Cognitive Load > Ambiguity

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Increase thinking by making ambiguous statements that could be interpreted in several ways.

The way you say things can also create ambiguity, such as making a non-committal statement with a suggestive tone and romantic gestures. This is often related to how you feel, so beware of accidental ambiguity when you are trying to cover up your real thoughts and feelings.

Example

That's OK. (Does 'OK' mean 'barely adequate' or 'good' ?)

Do you have the time? (What time is it? or Can you help?)  

Discussion

When you say less, are unclear or are vague, the listener has to guess the omitted content, forcing them to work out what you intend through consideration of all possible meanings they can imagine. This requires concentrated thought and gives little time for other musings.

Many language, and English in particular, are full of potential ambiguity, with similar-sounding words, multiple meanings and so on.

Ambiguity is a common method in conversation, often used when the speaker does not want to commit to words that may draw criticism, yet wishes to convey a particular point. This has a result that the listener has to pay close attention to vocal tone and body language as well as think about what is really meant. In this way we try to read between the lines, guessing what the person is thinking rather than taking them at face value.

See also

Repetition principle, Vagueness, Unclear Language,

 

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