I came across this article this morning via a blog post from
"Wolves in sheep’s clothing: How and when hypothetical questions influence behavior" by Sarah G. Moore and others. Full article unfortunately unavailable for free.
"We examine how and when hypothetical questions influence judgment and behavior.
Hypotheticals increase the accessibility of the positive or negative information in the question.
Thus, hypotheticals influence behavior according to the valence of the question.
Hypotheticals exert a stronger influence when they are consistent with existing knowledge.
Hypotheticals exert a weaker influence when individuals are aware of their impact."
I think this is a deliberate and obvious application of psychological priming, where we are biased to interpret events, through exposure to positive or negative tone words.
Hypotheticals frame the context of the discussion, and require to you use the hard path of cognition to think in a different way. They are a source of error in social science surveys, and are often used by marketers and political pollsters to lead our response.
I'd like to read the full paper to find out what sort of experimental method they used.