Discussion paper

DP18537 Getting through: Communicating complex information

Policymakers communicate complex messages to multiple audiences; we investigate how complexity impacts messages 'getting through' effectively. We distinguish 'semantic' complexity - the focus of existing empirical studies - from 'conceptual' complexity, which better reflects information-processing costs identified by theory. We conduct an information-provision experiment using central bank communications; conceptual complexity - captured by a novel quantitative measure we construct - matters more for getting through. This is true even for technically trained individuals. Bank of England efforts to simplify language have reduced traditional semantic measures, but conceptual complexity has actually increased. Our findings can direct efforts for effective policy communication design.


Mcmahon, M and M Naylor (2023), ‘DP18537 Getting through: Communicating complex information‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 18537. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp18537