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leading question

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leading question

An example of a leading question (In this sentence, "didn't you" is a tag question.)

Definition:

A type of question that implies or contains its own answer. A leading question can serve as a form of persuasion.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • Kent Brockman: Apu, will you ever stop selling spoiled meat?
    Apu: No. I mean, yes. I mean--uh oh.
    ("Homer and Apu." The Simpsons, 1994)


  • "Salespeople make good use of leading questions. Buying a roomful of furniture is a major purchase, a big decision. . . .

    "The salesperson, waiting impatiently, wants to hurry the process along. What can she do? She probably wants to say, 'So buy it already. It's just a sofa.' But that would not help. Instead, she asks a leading question: 'How soon would you need your furniture delivered?' The customer might answer 'Right away' or "Not for a few months, until we move into our new house.' Either answer serves the salesperson's purpose. The question assumes that the customer will need the store's delivery service, though that is true only after the customer buys the furniture. By answering the question, the customer implies that she will go ahead with the purchase. The question helps push her into a decision that she had been uncertain about until she answered it."
    (Michael Lovaglia, Knowing People: The Personal Use of Social Psychology. Rowman & Littlefield, 2007)


  • "Subtle leads are questions that may not be immediately recognised as leading questions. Harris (1973) reports studies which demonstrate that the way a question is worded can influence the response. For example, asking somebody how tall a basketball player is produced greater estimates than when respondents were asked how short the player was. The average guess of those who were asked 'how tall?' was 79 inches, as opposed to 69 inches for those who were asked 'how small?' Hargie describes a study by Loftus (1975) which reported similar findings when forty people were asked about headaches. Those who were asked 'Do you get headaches frequently and, if so, how often?' reported an average of 2.2 headaches per week, whereas those who were asked 'Do you get headaches occasionally and, if so, how often?' reported only 0.7 per week. Some interviewers may deliberately use subtle leads to obtain the answers they desire, but often neither the interviewer nor respondent is aware of the extent to which the wording of the question can influence the response."
    (John Hayes, Interpersonal Skills at Work. Routledge, 2002)
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