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Are Proverbs Cliché? An Application of the Elaboration Likelihood Model to Folkloric Performance.
Although proverbs resemble clichés in the broad sense of being common fixed-form phrases, and have been considered to be clichés by some scholars, proverbs are not prototypically cliché in other ways. Most importantly, whereas clichés are generally presumed to tarnish communicative efforts, the invocation of proverbs may often be an effective rhetorical act. It is here proposed that whether a particular text, in this case a proverb, is perceived as cliché may depend as much on contextual factors surrounding the performance of the text as on the familiarity of the text itself. The Elaboration Likelihood Model, which grew out of the persuasion literature in social psychology, describes two different routes to persuasion. Analysis with respect to the ELM suggests that proverb performances may be successful either because they provide useful arguments (i.e., by way of the central route) or because they exploit any of a number of heuristic truth cues (i.e., by way of the peripheral route); in either case, a successful performance is unlikely to be deemed cliché. Proverb performances that fail, however, may be deemed cliché—either because the arguments they present fail or because heuristic cues (e.g., their commonness) result in rejection of the message without consideration of its merits. The likelihood of these outcomes, though, may depend as much on the type of processing used by the audience as it does on the invocation of the proverbial text itself.
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