The Effects of Rhetorical Figures and Cognitive Load in Word-of-Mouth Communications

Gavin L. Fox, Shannon B. Rinaldo, Kirk St Amant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Advertising messages often are intended to ignite large-scale word-of-mouth campaigns among consumers. Drawing primarily from memetic theory, cognitive fit theory, and perceptual fluency, this research examines how rhetoric and cognitive load interact to enhance or diminish desirable effects such as retention of the original intent of the message (copy-fidelity) and engendering a desire to pass the message along (fecundity). Certain types of rhetoric are shown to aid this process by making some messages more attractive for retransmission and increasing retention of the original message, while cognitive load modifies which types are effective in accordance with cognitive fit and perceptual fluency. The results suggest that low-deviation high-complexity message forms (known as reversal) are the most effective for creating positive word-of-mouth outcomes and limiting potentially negative outcomes. Additionally, the results show that destabilization messages are more likely to yield mutated word-of-mouth messages that consumers still feel a strong desire to pass along to others. For practitioners, the results indicate what message forms should be used to effectively spark word-of-mouth campaigns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-1030
Number of pages14
JournalPsychology and Marketing
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


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