Trivial Differences in How Headlines Are Phrased
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It's no secret that political reporting tends to be biased -- websites and magazines are run by people, not unfeeling robots (yet). But even a seemingly trustworthy news story can accidentally sway your opinion just by using a certain verb tense, in much the same way that throwing a comma into The Amazing Spider-Man would completely change that movie. Here, let's take an example of the verb tense thing: if a news report says that a congressman "was having sex with three prostitutes," it somehow sounds much more negative than, say, if a congressman "had sex with three prostitutes." Don't believe us? Try comparing these two sentences:
1. Delbert slapped Trevor in the face with his penis.
2. Delbert was slapping Trevor in the face with his penis.
Either way, this election season is a win for Delbert.
See, the first sentence (using the simple past tense) sounds like a single, punctuating dick tap, while the second (using the past progressive tense) sounds like an endless cycle of dick-slapping torment. Some Stanford researchers applied this trick to news reporting, and found that if an article said a senator "was taking" bribes from one of his constituents, study participants were much more likely not to reelect him than if he merely "took" bribes. Additionally, since the phrase "was taking bribes" implies a longer and possibly ongoing history, participants guessed that the dollar amount involved was much higher. "Took" implies a lone indiscretion in the distant past.
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"Damn progressives and their tenses, trying to snatch all our money."