Rhyme-As-Reason Effect

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Rhyme-As-Reason Effect?

The Quick Answer

In Critical Thinking, the rhyme-as-reason effect is the tendency to believe a statement because it rhymes.

The Rhyme-as-Reason Effect: When Rhymes Shape Our Beliefs

In the realm of cognitive psychology, the rhyme-as-reason effect explores how the use of rhymes and catchy phrases can influence our perception, persuasion, and belief formation. This cognitive bias suggests that statements or claims presented in a rhyming or rhythmic form are more likely to be perceived as true, reliable, and accurate, even if they lack substantial evidence or logical reasoning.
Imagine you come across two statements regarding a new health supplement:
  • Statement 1: "Take this pill, it will make you fit and thrill!"
  • Statement 2: "Take this pill, it will improve your health and well-being!"
Although both statements essentially convey the same message, Statement 1 is crafted in a rhyming and rhythmic manner, while Statement 2 is straightforward and devoid of rhyme. According to the rhyme-as-reason effect, you may find Statement 1 more persuasive and believable simply because of its catchy rhyme. The rhyme gives it a sense of coherence and memorability, leading you to attribute greater credibility to the claim.
The rhyme-as-reason effect has significant implications in various domains, including advertising, politics, and public opinion formation. Advertisers often leverage this bias by using memorable slogans, jingles, or taglines that rhyme, allowing the message to stick in the minds of consumers. Political campaigns employ similar tactics, utilizing rhymes and rhythmic phrases to enhance their persuasive appeal and sway public opinion.

Additionally, the rhyme-as-reason effect can influence our memory and recall. Rhyming information is more likely to be stored and retrieved from memory compared to non-rhyming information. This bias can be observed in mnemonic techniques that utilize rhymes to aid in information retention, such as "I before E except after C."

While the rhyme-as-reason effect can enhance memorability and persuasive impact, it is important to recognize its potential pitfalls. The use of rhyme does not inherently guarantee accuracy or truthfulness. Claims presented in a rhyming form should still be critically evaluated based on evidence, logical reasoning, and supporting data. Relying solely on the rhyme can lead to the acceptance of false or misleading information.

To counteract the influence of the rhyme-as-reason effect, it is essential to engage in critical thinking and evaluate claims based on their substance rather than their delivery. Taking the time to examine evidence, consider alternative viewpoints, and assess the logical coherence of arguments helps to make more informed and rational judgments.
What is the rhyme-as-reason effect?

Easy Definition of the Rhyme-As-Reason Effect

Don't treat a statement as believable just because it rhymes. If you do, you've been influenced by the rhyme-as-reason effect.

Academic Definition of the Rhyme-As-Reason Effect

The rhyme-as-reason effect is a cognitive bias that causes a rhyming statement, observation or saying to be judged more accurate than an equally valid non-rhyming one. The rhyme-as-reason effect occurs because people probably evaluate a statement's truth according to its aesthetic qualities or the ease with which it is processed by the brain (i.e., the fluency heuristic). For example, due to the rhyme-as-reason effect, "What sobriety conceals, alcohol reveals" is judged often more accurate than "What sobriety conceals, alcohol unmasks".

An Example of the Rhyme-As-Reason Effect

This ain't my glove, love

rhyme as reason effect One of the best cited examples of the rhyme-as-reason effect occurred during the O.J. Simpson murder trial in 1995 when Johnnie Cochran (the American lawyer who defended Simpson) told the jury "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit". Cochran was referring to a pair of gloves (one was bloodied and found at the murder scene; the other was reportedly recovered later from Simpson's house).

When Simpson tried on the gloves, they appeared far too small for him, which allowed Cochran to use his now famous line. Months of testimony followed, but Cochran's rhyming assertion "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit" was considered the turning point of the trial.

The rhyme-as-reason effect probably works because of the way we evaluate a statement's truth according to its aesthetic qualities or the ease with which it is processed by the brain. However, the rhyme-as-reason effect may also work because a rhyme suggests a perceived historical wisdom. For example, someone hearing the rhyme "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" might believe that this "fact" has proven so true over such a long time that it has been deliberately written as an easy-to-remember rhyme by some higher authority to help spread the message. People may also believe that such rhyming statements have been well tested, otherwise the rhyme would not have survived the test of time. It is therefore possible that the believability we afford old rhyming statements bleeds across to new ones. After all, why would anyone bother to make something rhyme if it were nonsense?

A Practical Application for the Rhyme-As-Reason Effect

Make It Rhyme!

If you need to convince the public of something, make your statement rhyme. Provided your rhyme asserts something fairly believable, there is a good chance a rhyming version of your statement will be more effective than a non-rhyming one. (Of note, there appears to be a downside to the rhyme-as-reason effect. If a rhyming statement is slightly suspicious, the rhyme can magnify that suspicion.)

Summary of the Rhyme-As-Reason Effect

If you think someone has taken a rhyming statement as true without first reviewing a non-rhyming version of the same facts, tell them they may have succumbed to the rhyme-as-reason effect.

Critical Thinking Test

Are you good at spotting the biases, fallacies, and other cognitive effects? Can you spot when statistics have been manipulated? Can you read body language? Well, let's see!
gold cup

gold cup

gold cup

  • This test has questions.
  • A correct answer is worth 5 points.
  • You can get up to 5 bonus points for a speedy answer.
  • Some questions demand more than one answer. You must get every part right.
  • Beware! Wrong answers score 0 points.
  • 🏆 If you beat one of the top 3 scores, you will be invited to apply for the Hall of Fame.
Scoring System

Guru (+)
Hero (+)
Captain (+)
Sergeant (+)
Recruit (+)
Help Us To Improve

  • Do you disagree with something on this page?
  • Did you spot a typo?
  • Do you know a bias or fallacy that we've missed?
Please tell us using this form

See Also