Community appeal: Explanation without information.

Formal or categorical explanation involves the use of a label to explain a property of an object or group of objects. In four experiments, we provide evidence that label entrenchment, the degree to which a label is accepted and used by members of the community, influences the judged quality of a categorical explanation whether or not the explanation offers substantive information about the explanandum. Experiment 1 shows that explanations using unentrenched labels are seen as less comprehensive and less natural, independent of the causal information they provide. Experiment 2 shows that these intuitions persist when the community has no additional, relevant featural information, so the label amounts to a mere name for the explanandum. Experiment 3 finds a similar effect when the unentrenched label is not widely used, but is defined by a group of experts and the recipient of the explanation is herself an expert familiar with the topic. The effect also obtains for categories that lack a coherent causal structure. Experiment 4 further demonstrates the domain generality of the entrenchment effect and provides evidence against several interpretations of the results. A majority of participants in Experiments 3 and 4 could not report the impact of entrenchment on their judgments. We argue that this reliance on community cues arose because the community often has useful information to provide about categories. The common use of labels as conduits for this communal knowledge results in reliance on community cues even when they are uninformative. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)