ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

Previous relationship research has largely ignored the importance of similarity in how people talk with one another. Using natural language samples, we investigated whether similarity in dyads' use of function words, called language style matching (LSM), predicts outcomes for romantic relationships. In Study 1, greater LSM in transcripts of 40 speed dates predicted increased likelihood of mutual romantic interest (odds ratio = 3.05). Overall, 33.3% of pairs with LSM above the median mutually desired future contact, compared with 9.1% of pairs with LSM at or below the median. In Study 2, LSM in 86 couples' instant messages positively predicted relationship stability at a 3-month follow-up (odds ratio = 1.95). Specifically, 76.7% of couples with LSM greater than the median were still dating at the follow-up, compared with 53.5% of couples with LSM at or below the median. LSM appears to reflect implicit interpersonal processes central to romantic relationships.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Psychological Science
XX(X) 1 –6
© The Author(s) 2010
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/0956797610392928
Interpersonal similarity plays an important role in the develop-
ment of romantic relationships. Similarity in values, interests,
and personality traits is known to predict mate selection and,
to a lesser degree, the long-term success of romantic relation-
ships (e.g., McCrae et al., 2008; Watson et al., 2004). Other
work suggests that people who exhibit more similar nonverbal
cues when talking with each other are more likely to be
attracted to each other (Karremans & Verwijmeren, 2008).
More broadly, when two people meet and automatically coor-
dinate hand gestures, eye gaze, and posture, they are more
likely to like and understand each other (Chartrand & van
Baaren, 2009; Shockley, Richardson, & Dale, 2009).
Often overlooked in the behavioral and social sciences are
the facts that couples actually talk with one another and that
their conversations often serve as the basis of their attraction.
Remarkably little work has been done on synchrony in natu-
ral language use between two people who may become or
are currently romantically involved. One recently developed
tool that stands to shed new light on synchrony in real-life
relationships is an unobtrusive measure of nonconscious ver-
bal coordination called language style matching, or LSM
(Gonzales, Hancock, & Pennebaker, 2010). LSM is a dyad-
level measure of the degree to which two people in a conver-
sation subtly match each other’s speaking or writing style.
Although people naturally match their language styles to
some degree in most everyday conversations, such matching is
undetectable by both speakers and trained observers. (Ireland
& Pennebaker, 2010; Niederhoffer & Pennebaker, 2002).
Furthermore, like eye gaze coordination, LSM is thought to
map directly onto the interpersonal coordination of psycho-
logical states (Ireland & Pennebaker, 2010; Richardson,
Dale, & Kirkham, 2007). The purpose of the studies reported
here was to investigate whether LSM between potential and
current romantic partners during naturally occurring conver-
sations predicts initial romantic interest and long-term rela-
tionship stability.
The focus of LSM is a person’s use of function words
in speaking or writing. Function words, such as pronouns
and articles, are generally short, are frequently used, and have
little meaning outside the context of a sentence (Chung &
Pennebaker, 2007). As a result of these features, function
words are processed rapidly and largely nonconsciously when
people produce or comprehend language (Segalowitz & Lane,
2004; Van Petten & Kutas, 1991) and require shared social
Corresponding Author:
James W. Pennebaker, Department of Psychology, 1 University Station A8000,
University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712
Language Style Matching Predicts
Relationship Initiation and Stability
Molly E. Ireland1, Richard B. Slatcher2, Paul W. Eastwick3,
Lauren E. Scissors4, Eli J. Finkel4, and James W. Pennebaker1
1The University of Texas at Austin, 2Wayne State University, 3Texas A&M University, and 4Northwestern University
Previous relationship research has largely ignored the importance of similarity in how people talk with one another. Using
natural language samples, we investigated whether similarity in dyads’ use of function words, called language style matching
(LSM), predicts outcomes for romantic relationships. In Study 1, greater LSM in transcripts of 40 speed dates predicted increased
likelihood of mutual romantic interest (odds ratio = 3.05). Overall, 33.3% of pairs with LSM above the median mutually desired
future contact, compared with 9.1% of pairs with LSM at or below the median. In Study 2, LSM in 86 couples’ instant messages
positively predicted relationship stability at a 3-month follow-up (odds ratio = 1.95). Specifically, 76.7% of couples with LSM
greater than the median were still dating at the follow-up, compared with 53.5% of couples with LSM at or below the median.
LSM appears to reflect implicit interpersonal processes central to romantic relationships.
romantic relationships, relationship stability, dyads, language, LIWC
Received 6/11/10; Revision accepted 8/23/10
Research Report
Psychological Science OnlineFirst, published on December 13, 2010 as doi:10.1177/0956797610392928
at NORTHWESTERN UNIV LIBRARY on December 14, 2010pss.sagepub.comDownloaded from
2 Ireland et al.
knowledge, or common ground, to be used effectively (Meyer
& Bock, 1999). For example, the function words (underlined)
in the sentence He placed it on the table make little sense with-
out prior knowledge of the man, the object, and the table in
question. Perhaps because of their key role in social cognition,
function words are robust markers of a variety of individ-
ual differences and social behaviors, ranging from leadership
style to honesty (Hancock, Curry, Goorha, & Woodworth,
2008; Slatcher, Chung, Pennebaker, & Stone, 2007; Tausczik
& Pennebaker, 2010). Therefore, LSM theoretically reflects
interpersonal alignment across the array of psychological
states that function words represent.
By focusing on function words rather than content words,
such as nouns and verbs, LSM allows researchers to assess
psychological matching irrespective of context. Whereas func-
tion words are independent of conversational topics, content
words are often constrained by them. For example, although
two friends who work in an office building and a rock quarry,
respectively, would likely use very different content words
during a conversation about their days at work, research sug-
gests that their function words would be similar to the extent
that the friends like and understand each other (Gonzales et al.,
2010; Pickering & Garrod, 2004).
Among function words, personal pronouns appear to be
particularly relevant to relationships. Married couples who use
we more often and you less often have lower divorce rates
and report greater marital satisfaction (Seider, Hirschberger,
Nelson, & Levenson, 2009; Simmons, Gordon, & Chambless,
2005). In dating couples, in contrast, women’s use of first-
person singular pronouns (e.g., I, my) during instant-message
(IM) conversations positively predicts relationship stability
(Slatcher, Vazire, & Pennebaker, 2008). However, in these
previous studies, each individual’s language use was the focus
of analysis. In contrast, naturally occurring verbal matching
requires some degree of complicity from both sides of a con-
versation, much as coordination of eye gaze and postural sway
does (Shockley et al., 2009). As a measure of function-word
matching at the dyad level, LSM hypothetically reflects not
only each partner’s attempts to engage the other, but also the
degree to which these attempts are reciprocated. Thus, LSM
may uniquely predict relationship outcomes that entail reci-
procity, such as going on a date or staying in a relationship,
independently of measures that focus on individuals in isola-
tion. Indeed, in previous studies, LSM has positively predicted
such necessarily mutual outcomes as group cohesiveness and
peaceful resolution of hostage negotiations (Gonzales et al.,
2010; Taylor & Thomas, 2008).
In two studies, we investigated whether nonconscious ver-
bal coordination during naturally occurring conversations, as
measured by LSM, is linked to outcomes of romantic relation-
ships. Specifically, we tested the predictions that LSM is
positively associated with mutual romantic interest in a speed-
dating paradigm (Study 1) and with relationship stability in
dating couples (Study 2).
Study 1
Participants. The analyses reported here included 40 men
and 40 women (mean age = 19.6 years, SD = 1.2) who volun-
teered to take part in a speed-dating study (see Finkel, Eastwick,
& Matthews, 2007).
Procedure and materials. In total, 187 heterosexual partici-
pants took part in speed-dating events on the Northwestern
University campus. Participants went on 4-min speed dates
with up to 12 opposite-sex individuals, and each date was
audio- and video-recorded. Forty speed dates were selected for
transcription (see Eastwick, Saigal, & Finkel, in press) using
the following criteria: The dates covered a wide range of inter-
action quality, no participant was included in more than one of
the selected dates, and no participants were previously
acquainted with their dates. Participants also completed a
measure of perceived similarity following each date. This
measure included two items: “My interaction partner and I
seemed to have a lot in common” and “My interaction partner
and I seemed to have similar personalities.” The response
scale for these items ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 9
(strongly agree), α = .92. We included perceived similarity as
a covariate in our analyses to test the unique effects of LSM
above and beyond the predictive power of a traditionally
strong self-report predictor of romantic interest.
Within 24 hr of the speed-dating event, participants reported
on a Web site whether they would (“yes”) or would not (“no”)
be interested in seeing each of their speed-dating partners
again. If both participants in a date wanted to get together
again, they were considered a “match” and were given the
ability to contact each other. Participants whose interest was
unreciprocated were unable to contact their dates in the future.
Language analysis. Participants used approximately 429
words on average during a speed date (SD = 102, minimum =
218, maximum = 688). To calculate LSM for each pair, we
first segmented transcripts by speaker, producing two aggre-
gate text files for each date. Texts were then analyzed with a
computerized text analysis program, Linguistic Inquiry and
Word Count (LIWC; Pennebaker, Booth, & Francis, 2007).
LIWC calculates the percentage of total words in a text that
fall into nine basic-level function-word categories (Table 1).
Separate LSM scores were initially calculated for each cate-
gory using the following formula (prepositions are used in this
LSMpreps = 1 – [(preps1preps2
│) / ( preps1 + preps2 + 0.0001)]
In this formula, preps1 is the percentage of prepositions used
by the first person, and preps2 is the percentage used by the
second. In the denominator, 0.0001 is added to prevent empty
sets. The nine category-level LSM scores were averaged to
at NORTHWESTERN UNIV LIBRARY on December 14, 2010pss.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Language Style Matching in Relationships 3
yield a composite LSM score bounded by 0 and 1; higher
numbers represent greater stylistic similarity between two
speakers. One LSM score was calculated for each speed date
(see Table 2 for excerpts from speed dates with high and low
LSM scores).
Results and discussion
Relationship initiation, operationalized as whether speed-
dating partners subsequently matched with each other, was
regressed on LSM z scores in a logistic regression (Table 3).
As hypothesized, LSM significantly predicted relationship ini-
tiation, odds ratio (OR) = 3.05, p = .039. For every standard-
deviation increase in LSM, speed daters’ likelihood of
romantically matching more than tripled. Among speed-dating
dyads that were above the median on LSM scores, 33.3% were
mutually interested in contacting each other; for dyads at or
below the median, the corresponding figure was 9.1%. In
addition, when the average of the two speed daters’ perceived
similarity was included in the regression, LSM remained a
strong predictor of relationship initiation, OR = 3.49, p = .051.
Perceived similarity and LSM were uncorrelated, r(38) = .06,
p = .725.
Theoretically, both LSM and verbosity may reflect indi-
viduals’ interest in and desire to understand their partner. To
test whether verbosity accounted for the effect of LSM, we
regressed romantic matching on dyads’ mean word count and
LSM z scores in a logistic regression. LSM remained a strong
predictor of matching when word count was included in the
model, OR = 5.70, p < .001.
In summary, speed daters were more than 3 times as likely
to match with their date for every standard-deviation increase
in LSM. Critically, this association remained robust when
controlling for speed daters’ perceived similarity with their
dates, which indicates that similarity in language style
uniquely predicts relationship initiation beyond self-reported
Study 2
Study 1 found that LSM during first dates predicted mutual
romantic interest. Study 2 investigated whether this pattern of
results extends to longer-term relationships. We hypothesized
that naturally occurring LSM between current relationship part-
ners would predict relationship stability at a 3-month follow-up.
Participants. Eighty-six couples (mean age = 19.0 years, SD =
1.4) participated in a study originally designed to test the
Table 1. Word Categories Used for Calculating Language Style
Category Examples
Personal pronouns I, his, their
Impersonal pronouns it, that, anything
Articles a, an, the
Conjunctions and, but, because
Prepositions in, under, about
Auxiliary verbs shall, be, was
High-frequency adverbs very, rather, just
Negations no, not, never
Quantifiers much, few, lots
Note: These Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) categories are from
LIWC2007 (Pennebaker, Booth, & Francis, 2007).
Table 2. Examples of Conversations With High and Low Language
Style Matching (LSM)
Excerpt 1 (LSM = .77)
W: Let’s get the basics over with. What are you studying?
M: Uh, I’m studying econ and poli sci. How about you?
W: I’m journalism and English literature.
M: OK, cool.
W: Yeah.
M: Alright, um, where are you from?
W: I’m from Iowa, a town of 700. . . .
M: I’m from New Jersey. Uh—
W: Probably not 700. . . .
M: All right, well, I mean, actually, believe it or not, where I’m from
in New Jersey has a lot in common with like Iowa and stuff. . . .
Uh, how are you enjoying Northwestern?
W: Um, I like it a lot. Um, obviously it was a big transition coming
from small-town Iowa, but, um, I love the city and have had a
really good time.
Excerpt 2 (LSM = .54)
W: Where are you from?
M: Connecticut. . . . How about you?
W: Um, I’m from Austin, Texas.
M: Texas? Nice, OK.
W: When you say football, I understand football.
M: Oh, OK.
W: That’s kind of like one of those things.
M: That’s—you a UT fan or a—
W: Um, fan would be the wrong word.
M: An understatement? Or an o—
W: No, the wrong word.
M: OK.
W: I’ve had enough football to last me a lifetime.
M: Ah, OK. . . . Well, um, so what are you studying here?
W: Oh, I—I study opera and mechanical engineering. . . .
M: That’s interesting. Are you in the music school?
W: I am.
Note: These two excerpts are from Study 1. “M” refers to the man in each
pair, and “W” to the woman. The higher-LSM pair (Excerpt 1) mutually
desired future contact; the lower-LSM pair (Excerpt 2) did not. The higher-
LSM pair matched each other’s use of personal pronouns (10.53% vs.
12.96%), auxiliary verbs (10.53% vs. 11.11%), and negations (1.75% vs. 1.85%).
The lower-LSM pair differed in the same categories (15.09% vs. 10.0%,
15.09% vs. 7.50%, and 1.89% vs. 0.0%, respectively).
at NORTHWESTERN UNIV LIBRARY on December 14, 2010pss.sagepub.comDownloaded from
4 Ireland et al.
effects of expressive writing on relationship stability (Slatcher
& Pennebaker, 2006). Couples who were in a committed het-
erosexual romantic relationship and engaged in IM conversa-
tion with each other daily were recruited for that study. On
average, the couples had been dating approximately 1.31 years
(SD = 1.06).
Procedure. Couples provided their IM chats that took place
during the 10 days of the study. Each couple member com-
pleted the Relationship Assessment Scale (RAS; Hendrick,
1988) on the first day. The RAS is a face-valid measure of
relationship satisfaction consisting of seven items, such as “In
general, how satisfied are you with your relationship?”
Responses are provided on 7-point Likert-type scales. Three
months later, relationship stability was assessed by asking
couples whether they were still dating.
Language analysis. The 10 days of IM conversations were
grouped into three periods (before, during, and after a 3-day
expressive-writing manipulation). Conversations were then
aggregated by participant and analyzed with LIWC. On aver-
age, participants wrote approximately 1,000 words to their
partners during each time period (SD = 1,136, minimum = 52,
maximum = 7,782). LSM for each period was calculated as in
Study 1, and these values were averaged to yield one mean
LSM score per couple.
Results and discussion
All analyses controlled for the effect of experimental writing
condition, although hypothesis tests yielded identical conclu-
sions when this control was excluded. Relationship stability,
operationalized as whether couples were still dating at the
3-month follow-up, was regressed on mean LSM z scores
(Table 3). LSM significantly predicted relationship stability,
OR = 1.95, p = .012. For every standard-deviation increase in
LSM, couples were approximately twice as likely to be
together 3 months later. Among couples with mean LSM
scores above the median, 76.7% were dating at follow-up; for
couples whose mean LSM scores were at or below the median,
the corresponding figure was 53.5%. As in Study 1, LSM
remained a strong predictor of the relationship outcome (in
this case, relationship stability) when the analysis controlled
for couples’ mean word count, OR = 1.98, p = .033.1
In addition, results were consistent with those of the Study I
covariance analysis in that LSM continued to predict the rela-
tionship outcome when couples’ mean relationship satisfaction
was included in the model, OR = 1.96, p = .021. Relationship
Table 3. Logistic Regression Models Predicting Relationship Outcomes in
Studies 1 and 2
Model and predictor βSE (β) Wald statistic pOdds ratio
Study 1
Model 1
LSM 1.11 0.54 4.25 .039 3.05
Model 2
Similarity 1.64 0.63 6.83 .009 5.16
Model 3
LSM 1.25 0.64 3.80 .051 3.49
Similarity 1.77 0.68 6.75 .009 5.87
Study 2
Model 1
LSM 0.67 0.27 6.30 .012 1.95
Condition −0.99 0.50 3.95 .047 0.37
Model 2
Satisfaction 0.88 0.27 10.48 .001 2.40
Condition −1.04 0.51 4.11 .043 0.35
Model 3
LSM 0.68 0.29 5.37 .021 1.96
Satisfaction 0.88 0.28 9.56 .002 2.40
Condition −0.85 0.54 2.50 .114 0.43
Note: Outcomes are matching (i.e., reciprocal romantic interest) following a speed-dating event
(Study 1) and relationship stability (Study 2). Similarity is a pair’s average score on a two-item
measure of self-reported similarity with the speed-dating partner (see Finkel, Eastwick, &
Matthews, 2007). Satisfaction is a couple’s average score on the Relationship Assessment Scale
(Hendrick, 1988). The conditions in Study 2 were a control condition and an expressive-writing
condition (see Slatcher & Pennebaker, 2006). LSM = language style matching.
at NORTHWESTERN UNIV LIBRARY on December 14, 2010pss.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Language Style Matching in Relationships 5
satisfaction was unrelated to LSM, r(84) = .11, p = .323. The
results indicate that LSM uniquely predicts relationship stability
beyond partners’ self-reported perceptions of relationship quality.
General Discussion
In two studies, an unobtrusive measure of nonconscious verbal
matching uniquely predicted mutual romantic interest and rela-
tionship stability independently of traditionally strong self-report
predictors (perceived similarity and relationship satisfaction).
Notably, the relationship outcomes in both studies were conse-
quential: Both romantic matching and relationship stability deter-
mined the existence or nonexistence of a romantic relationship.
Although there is currently no consensus on the specific
mechanisms underlying nonconscious behavioral coordina-
tion, it is generally accepted that coordinated eye gaze, lan-
guage use, and posture function to facilitate communication
and mutual understanding (Pickering & Garrod, 2004; Shockley
et al., 2009). Building on this theory, we speculate that people
seek to understand and thus coordinate with a conversation
partner to the degree that they find their partner engaging. Fur-
ther, our results suggest that engagement in a conversation,
which LSM theoretically reflects, is largely independent of the
degree to which individuals feel similar to or are satisfied with
their conversation partner.
As is the case for most research on verbal coordination, our
data are correlational. Although Pickering and Garrod (2004)
contend that language alignment causes mutual understand-
ing, other researchers contend that individuals’ goals to be
liked and understood cause behavioral coordination (Brennan
& Hanna, 2009; Lakin, Chartrand, & Arkin, 2008). It is likely
that LSM and its underlying psychological processes are bidi-
rectionally linked. Specifically, we suspect that style matching
and relationship engagement reciprocally increase one another
and jointly facilitate positive relationship outcomes (Nieder-
hoffer & Pennebaker, 2002).
LSM predicts critical real-world behaviors in contexts
ranging from academics to romantic relationships (Ireland &
Pennebaker, 2010). Measures of nonconscious verbal match-
ing, such as LSM, have the potential to illuminate previously
hidden processes that determine the existence or nonexistence
of social relationships. Extending previous findings that non-
verbal coordination facilitates smooth interpersonal interac-
tion, our results suggest that verbal coordination during
everyday conversations is integral to the initiation and mainte-
nance of romantic relationships.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
James W. Pennebaker is the codeveloper and owner of the text-
analysis program Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), which
is a commercial product from All profits that he receives
are donated to the University of Texas at Austin. All other authors
declared that they had no conflicts of interest with respect to their
authorship or the publication of this article.
Preparation of this manuscript was funded, in part, by the Army
Research Institute (W91WAW-07-C-0029), the National Consortium
for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (Z934002),
and the National Science Foundation (NSCC-0904822).
1. Several logistic regressions tested whether the effects of LSM
were driven primarily by matching in a subset of word categories
(e.g., personal pronouns, negations). No one category or subset of
categories reliably predicted relationship outcomes in Studies 1 and 2.
Brennan, S.E., & Hanna, J.E. (2009). Partner-specific adaptation in
dialogue. Topics in Cognitive Science, 1, 274–291.
Chartrand, T.L., & van Baaren, R. (2009). Human mimicry. In
M.P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology
(Vol. 41, pp. 219–274). London, England: Elsevier.
Chung, C.K., & Pennebaker, J.W. (2007). The psychological function
of function words. In K. Fiedler (Ed.), Social communication:
Frontiers of social psychology (pp. 343–359). New York, NY:
Psychology Press.
Eastwick, P.W., Saigal, S.D., & Finkel, E.J. (in press). Smooth oper-
ating: A Structural Analysis of Social Behavior (SASB) perspec-
tive on initial romantic encounters. Social Psychological and
Personality Science.
Finkel, E.J., Eastwick, P.W., & Matthews, J. (2007). Speed-dating as
an invaluable tool for studying romantic attraction: A method-
ological primer. Personal Relationships, 14, 149–166.
Gonzales, A.L., Hancock, J.T., & Pennebaker, J.W. (2010). Language
style matching as a predictor of social dynamics in small groups.
Communications Research, 31, 3–19.
Hancock, J.T., Curry, L., Goorha, S., & Woodworth, M.T. (2008).
On lying and being lied to: A linguistic analysis of deception.
Discourse Processes, 45, 1–23.
Hendrick, S.S. (1988). A generic measure of relationship satisfaction.
Journal of Marriage and the Family, 50, 93–98.
Ireland, M.E., & Pennebaker, J.W. (2010). Language style match-
ing in writing: Synchrony in essays, correspondence, and poetry.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 549–571.
Karremans, J.C., & Verwijmeren, T. (2008). Mimicking attractive
opposite-sex others: The role of romantic relationship status. Per-
sonality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 939–950.
Lakin, J.L., Chartrand, T.L., & Arkin, R.M. (2008). I am too just like
you: Nonconscious mimicry as an automatic behavioral response
to social exclusion. Psychological Science, 19, 816–822.
McCrae, R.R., Martin, T.A., Hrebícková, M., Urbánek, T.,
Willemsen, G., & Costa, P.T. (2008). Personality trait similarity
between spouses in four cultures. Journal of Personality, 76,
Meyer, A.S., & Bock, K. (1999). Representations and processes in the
production of pronouns: Some perspectives from Dutch. Journal
of Memory and Language, 41, 281–301.
at NORTHWESTERN UNIV LIBRARY on December 14, 2010pss.sagepub.comDownloaded from
6 Ireland et al.
Niederhoffer, K.G., & Pennebaker, J.W. (2002). Linguistic style
matching in social interaction. Journal of Language and Social
Psychology, 21, 337–360.
Pennebaker, J.W., Booth, R.J., & Francis, M.E. (2007). Linguistic
Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC2007): A computer-based text
analysis program [Computer software]. Austin, TX:
Pickering, M.J., & Garrod, S. (2004). Toward a mechanistic psychol-
ogy of dialogue. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 27, 169–225.
Richardson, D.C., Dale, R., & Kirkham, N.Z. (2007). The art of con-
versation is coordination: Common ground and the coupling of eye
movements during dialogue. Psychological Science, 18, 407–413.
Segalowitz, S.J., & Lane, K. (2004). Perceptual fluency and lexical
access for lexical versus content words. Behavioral and Brain
Sciences, 27, 307–308.
Seider, B.H., Hirschberger, G., Nelson, K.L., & Levenson, R.W.
(2009). We can work it out: Age differences in relational pro-
nouns, physiology, and behavior in marital conflict. Psychology
and Aging, 24, 604–613.
Shockley, K., Richardson, D.C., & Dale, R. (2009). Conversation and
coordinative structures. Topics in Cognitive Science, 1, 305–319.
Simmons, R.A., Gordon, P.C., & Chambless, D.L. (2005). Pronouns
in marital interaction: What do “you” and “I” say about marital
health? Psychological Science, 16, 932–936.
Slatcher, R.B., Chung, C.K., Pennebaker, J.W., & Stone, L.D. (2007).
Winning words: Individual differences in linguistic style among
U.S. presidential and vice presidential candidates. Journal of
Research in Personality, 41, 63–75.
Slatcher, R.B., & Pennebaker, J.W. (2006). How do I love thee? Let
me count the words: The social effects of expressive writing. Psy-
chological Science, 17, 660–664.
Slatcher, R.B., Vazire, S., & Pennebaker, J.W. (2008). Am “I” more
important than “we”? Couples’ word use in instant messages.
Personal Relationships, 15, 407–424.
Tausczik, Y.R., & Pennebaker, J.W. (2010). The psychological mean-
ing of words: LIWC and computerized text analysis methods.
Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 29, 24–54.
Taylor, P.J., & Thomas, S. (2008). Linguistic style matching and
negotiation outcome. Negotiation and Conflict Management
Research, 1, 263–281.
Van Petten, C., & Kutas, M. (1991). Influences of semantic and syn-
tactic context on open- and closed-class words. Memory & Cog-
nition, 19, 95–112.
Watson, D., Klohnen, E.C., Casillas, A., Simms, E.N., Haig, J., &
Berry, D.S. (2004). Match makers and deal breakers: Analyses of
assortative mating in newlywed couples. Journal of Personality,
72, 1029–1068.
at NORTHWESTERN UNIV LIBRARY on December 14, 2010pss.sagepub.comDownloaded from
... Another factor that has shown to contribute to successful social functioning is similarity in conversations style. In a separate line of research, individual differences in mimicking the verbal style of conversation partners, such as repeating or referring to words and phrases that another person used (i.e., language style matching; Ireland et al. 2011) has been associated with effective social functioning, indicated for example by the quality of interpersonal relationships (e.g., Aafjes-van Doorn et al. 2020;Ireland et al. 2011), group cohesiveness and performance (Gonzales et al. 2010). ...
... Another factor that has shown to contribute to successful social functioning is similarity in conversations style. In a separate line of research, individual differences in mimicking the verbal style of conversation partners, such as repeating or referring to words and phrases that another person used (i.e., language style matching; Ireland et al. 2011) has been associated with effective social functioning, indicated for example by the quality of interpersonal relationships (e.g., Aafjes-van Doorn et al. 2020;Ireland et al. 2011), group cohesiveness and performance (Gonzales et al. 2010). ...
... To assess verbal matching, participants were asked to provide a written message of support to one (randomly presented) target from the emotional accuracy test. The language of the participant (supporter) was compared to the language of the target (expressor) with which they told their story, to quantify Language Style Matching (LSM; Ireland et al. 2011). LSM is a metric that measures the degree to which two texts match in verbal styles. ...
Full-text available
Previous work has shown that emotion recognition is positively related to effective social interactions, but the mechanism underlying this relationship has remained largely unclear. Here, we examined the possibility that people who understand others’ emotions also talk to them using similar language. In the current study participants (N = 106) listened to emotional stories people shared from their own lives. They were later asked to recognize the storytellers’ feelings and finally provide written support messages. Perceivers’ ability to accurately recognize others’ feelings was assessed using the Emotional Accuracy Test (EAT), which uses naturalistic verbal and nonverbal emotional cues, and using two standard tests of nonverbal emotion recognition (GERT, RMET). The language of the expressor (target) was compared to the language of the supporter (participant) to quantify Language Style Matching, a proxy for effective communication. People who perform better in emotion recognition with verbal cues (EAT) also communicate their understanding and support using language similar to the expresser (r = .22, p = .02). This relation was insignificant for tests without verbal information (RMET, GERT). The result provides additional construct validation for the EAT and supports the view that understanding the emotions of others and communicating with them are two manifestations of a broader interpersonal skill.
... 2b and 2c), or divergent (i.e., start similar and diverge) (Fig. 2d). This finding is consistent with dyadic communication research in and outside of therapy, which uses related concepts such as language accommodation, entrainment, linguistic synchrony, adjustment, style matching, and affordances 30,35,[63][64][65][66][67][68][69][70] . Despite a lack of harmony in concept terminology, our findings align with prior work suggesting that complex linguistic interactions are likely playing out during therapy. ...
... motivational interviewing), or language convergence (e.g. linguistic alignment) 19,35,66,67,[73][74][75] . Our findings suggest that many-to-one and one-to-many associations are playing out between therapist and patient language features. ...
Full-text available
Although individual psychotherapy is generally effective for a range of mental health conditions, little is known about the moment-to-moment language use of effective therapists. Increased access to computational power, coupled with a rise in computer-mediated communication (telehealth), makes feasible the large-scale analyses of language use during psychotherapy. Transparent methodological approaches are lacking, however. Here we present novel methods to increase the efficiency of efforts to examine language use in psychotherapy. We evaluate three important aspects of therapist language use - timing, responsiveness, and consistency - across five clinically relevant language domains: pronouns, time orientation, emotional polarity, therapist tactics, and paralinguistic style. We find therapist language is dynamic within sessions, responds to patient language, and relates to patient symptom diagnosis but not symptom severity. Our results demonstrate that analyzing therapist language at scale is feasible and may help answer longstanding questions about specific behaviors of effective therapists.
... An alternative, but complementary approach might use language patterns to identify liking and affinity toward another person or group. A variety of studies have demonstrated the more that people match on their use of style words (e.g., articles, prepositions, pronouns), the more that two people tend to have more favorable interpersonal perceptions, cohesion, interest, liking, and better interactions (Gonzales et al., 2010;Ireland et al., 2011). This insight -using style words as markers of interpersonal interest and liking -can help forensic interviewers who want to understand the degree to which suspects feel psychologically connected to the interviewer as revealed at the language level. ...
Full-text available
Most deception scholars agree that deception production and deception detection effects often display mixed results across settings. For example, some liars use more emotion than truth-tellers when discussing fake opinions on abortion, but not when communicating fake distress. Similarly, verbal and nonverbal cues are often inconsistent predictors to assist in deception detection, leading to mixed accuracies and detection rates. Why are lie production and detection effects typically inconsistent? In this piece, we argue that aspects of the context are often unconsidered in how lies are produced and detected. Greater theory-building related to contextual constraints of deception are therefore required. We reintroduce and extend the Contextual Organization of Language and Deception (COLD) model, a framework that outlines how psychological dynamics, pragmatic goals, and genre conventions are aspects of the context that moderate the relationship between deception and communication behavior such as language. We extend this foundation by proposing three additional aspects of the context — individual differences, situational opportunities for deception, and interpersonal characteristics — for the COLD model that can specifically inform and potentially improve forensic interviewing. We conclude with a forward-looking perspective for deception researchers and practitioners related to the need for more theoretical explication of deception and its detection related to the context.
... How people communicate is also critical and can be revealed through style words (Chung & Pennebaker, 2007), including articles (e.g., a, the), prepositions (e.g., above, below), and pronouns (e.g., I, me). Style words are ubiquitous in English (Rochon, Saffran, Berndt, & Schwartz, 2000), they form the connective tissue of a sentence, and link to a range of psychological dynamics as well, including personality traits (Ireland & Mehl, 2014) and interpersonal cohesion (Gonzales, Hancock, & Pennebaker, 2010;Ireland et al., 2011). ...
... Results showed that those with control of the waiting list tended to choose patients whose political party preference matched their own. Another experimental study investigated how interpersonal similarity plays an important role in the development of romantic relationships, and can be used to predict initial romantic interest and long-term relationship stability [72]. Furthermore, research shows that similarity and language style matching can reveal important information about social dynamics, and can be very effective in predicting change in social psychological factors of interest [73]. ...
Full-text available
Persuasion can be seen as a higher-level, abstract and complex cognitive process. Within the field of persuasion theory and research, there are a myriad of overlapping concepts and techniques which can lead to ambiguity and potential confusion in the choice of the most appropriate strategies. Persuasion communication is integral to areas including social psychology, marketing, health communications and political campaigning. Based on a review of persuasion theory and research, we collate and outline the most important variables to be collected when designing a persuasion model and the most commonly used models of persuasion. This paper also presents a taxonomy which outlines the landscape of persuasion techniques and which, along with presented examples, may assist in message tailoring and developing data-driven models of persuasive communication. We believe this paper can be a valuable resource to support researchers and practitioners in expediting and enhancing the process of data collection, selection of persuasion techniques and models of persuasive communication, and ultimately in the realisation of a more adequate and effective persuasion system.
... However, we choose to stick to the standardized procedure described and motivated in Duran et al. (2019). Turn-by-turn dynamics of entrainment is a more consistent operationalization of the theoretical construct of linguistic entrainment for our study because it is more akin to the way we analyze backchannels and repairs, and including all words reflects the notion that function words play important roles in linguistic style and style matching (Ireland et al., 2011;Ireland & Henderson, 2014;Tausczik & Pennebaker, 2010). ...
Full-text available
Humans readily engage in idle chat and heated discussions and negotiate tough joint decisions without ever having to think twice about how to keep the conversation grounded in mutual understanding. However, current attempts at identifying and assessing the conversational devices that make this possible are fragmented across disciplines and investigate single devices within single contexts. We present a comprehensive conceptual framework to investigate conversational devices, their relations, and how they adjust to contextual demands. In two corpus studies, we systematically test the role of three conversational devices: backchannels, repair, and linguistic entrainment. Contrasting affiliative and task-oriented conversations within participants, we find that conversational devices adaptively adjust to the increased need for precision in the latter: We show that low-precision devices such as backchannels are more frequent in affiliative conversations, whereas more costly but higher-precision mechanisms, such as specific repairs, are more frequent in task-oriented conversations. Further, task-oriented conversations involve higher complementarity of contributions in terms of the content and perspective: lower semantic entrainment and less frequent (but richer) lexical and syntactic entrainment. Finally, we show that the observed variations in the use of conversational devices are potentially adaptive: pairs of interlocutors that show stronger linguistic complementarity perform better across the two tasks. By combining motivated comparisons of several conversational contexts and theoretically informed computational analyses of empirical data the present work lays the foundations for a comprehensive conceptual framework for understanding the use of conversational devices in dialogue. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... This concept considers the rate of style words in a person's communication output, which is pervasive in English (Baayen et al., 1995;Tausczik & Pennebaker, 2010) and reflects the manner in which they communicate instead of what they communicate about (Chung & Pennebaker, 2007;Pennebaker, 2011). Words such as pronouns (e.g., I, me, myself ), articles (e.g., a, the), and prepositions (e.g., above, below) are examples of style words, which connect to many social and psychological processes including interpersonal interest and group cohesion (Ireland et al., 2011), personality (Yarkoni, 2010), social status (Kacewicz et al., 2014;Markowitz, 2018), and psychological distress (Cohn et al., 2004;Markowitz, 2022;Seraj et al., 2021). ...
Research on processing fluency and instrumental goal activation suggests people often perceive complex information positively when effort in a task is valued. The current article evaluates this idea in five online petition samples (total N = 1,047,655 petitions and over 200 million words), assessing how the linguistic fluency of a petition associates with support. Consistent with prior work, petitions with lower rates of lexical fluency (fewer common words) associated with more signatures and an increased probability of petitions making a concrete change than those with higher rates of lexical fluency (more common words). Exploratory results suggest other forms of linguistic complexity also associated with petition support: petitions with more analytic writing (e.g., more formal and complex writing patterns) and with less structural fluency (less readable writing) received more signatures than those with less analytic writing and more structural fluency. Controlling for the political leaning of the petition writers as inferred by their language patterns revealed consistent effects. Crucially, the lexical fluency results were maintained across eight languages as well. Various types of linguistic complexity are therefore instrumental to get people to support online causes. Contributions to fluency theory and the psychology of giving are discussed. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
Full-text available
Persuasion is integral to areas including marketing, social psychology, health communications and political campaigning. This paper presents an accessible compendium of some of the main aspects of psychological influence including a synthesis of the main concepts of persuasion, a condensed taxonomy of persuasion techniques and examples which can serve as a reference tool for designing persuasive messages. Additionally, we provide relevant explanations of the elements of persuasion e.g., important personality and belief system-based variables which can be used in powerful predictive models such as machine learning approaches. We believe this paper can be a valuable resource to support researchers and practitioners in expediting and enhancing the process of data collection, selecting persuasion techniques, and developing models of persuasive marketing communication.
To date, a growing body of second language (L2) research has investigated linguistic alignment as a pedagogical intervention, focusing on L2 learners’ alignment behaviors in task-based interactions (e.g., Jung, YeonJoo, YouJin Kim & John Murphy. 2017. The role of task repetition in learning word-stress patterns through auditory priming tasks. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 39(2). 319–346; Kim, YouJin, YeonJoo Jung & Stephen Skalicky. 2019. Linguistic alignment, learner characteristics, and the production of stranded prepositions in relative clauses: Comparing FTF and SCMC contexts. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 41(5). 937–969). Linguistic alignment refers to a tendency where one speaker’s utterances align with particular language features of those of the other speaker in dialogue. The current study investigated how L2 speakers’ alignment behaviors differ in natural dialogues between L2-L1 and L2-L2 dyads in terms of language style (i.e., stylistic alignment) and the role of non-linguistic factors in the occurrence of stylistic alignment. The study analyzed a corpus of 360 texts using a computational tool. Results showed that stylistic alignment occurred to a greater extent in the L2-L2 dyad than in the L2-L1 dyad with respect to the word range, word frequency, word imageability, and proportion of bigrams proportion produced by the interlocutors. Furthermore, findings demonstrated the degree of stylistic alignment on each of the four selected lexical features was affected by numerous factors including age, group membership, nonnative speaker status, familiarity between interlocutors, and linguistic distance between L1 and L2. The effect of each factor on stylistic alignment in conversation is discussed in detail.
This paper studies dialogicity in posts and their comments. Focusing on political slogans in the Facebook page of Israel PM Binyamin Netanyahu, we examine the ways comments meta-represent the posts in various degrees of resemblance. Starting with the premise that comments/post interactions are dialogic in the Bakhtinian sense, we argue that comments are dialogic in yet another way, which is related to the form and degree of resemblance between them. The conceptualization draws on the notion of meta-representation supplemented by insights gained from accommodation theory and Bakhtin’s dialogism. We argue that through resemblance, the propositional content, ideology and viewpoint conveyed by the initiating slogan are incorporated in the comment, and a tacit dialogue is constructed between them. An additional layer of polyphony is added to the multiplicity of ratified voices otherwise manifest in the interaction between separate posts and comments.
Full-text available
This study investigated changes in both the liar's and the conversational partner's linguistic style across truthful and deceptive dyadic communication in a synchronous text-based setting. An analysis of 242 transcripts revealed that liars produced more words, more sense-based words (e.g., seeing, touching), and used fewer self-oriented but more other-oriented pronouns when lying than when telling the truth. In addition, motivated liars avoided causal terms when lying, whereas unmotivated liars tended to increase their use of negations. Conversational partners also changed their behavior during deceptive conversations, despite being blind to the deception manipulation. Partners asked more questions with shorter sentences when they were being deceived, and matched the liar's linguistic style along several dimensions. The linguistic patterns in both the liar and the partner's language use were not related to deception detection, suggesting that partners were unable to use this linguistic information to improve their deception detection accuracy.
Full-text available
We are in the midst of a technological revolution whereby, for the first time, researchers can link daily word use to a broad array of real-world behaviors. This article reviews several computerized text analysis methods and describes how Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) was created and validated. LIWC is a transparent text analysis program that counts words in psychologically meaningful categories. Empirical results using LIWC demonstrate its ability to detect meaning in a wide variety of experimental settings, including to show attentional focus, emotionality, social relationships, thinking styles, and individual differences.
Abstract Recent studies in social psychology have found that the frequency of certain words in people's speech and writing is related to psychological aspects of their personal health. We investigated whether counts of “self” and “other” pronouns used by 59 couples engaged in a problem-solving discussion were related to indices of marital health. One spouse in each couple had a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder or panic disorder with agoraphobia; 50% of the patients and 40% of their spouses reported marital dissatisfaction. Regardless of patients' diagnostic status, spouses who used more second-person pronouns were more negative during interactions, whereas those who used more first-person plural pronouns produced more positive problem solutions, even when negative behavior was statistically controlled. Moreover, use of first-person singular pronouns was positively associated with marital satisfaction. These findings suggest that pronouns used by spouses during conflict-resolution discussions provide insight into the quality of their interactions and marriages.
Three experiments were conducted to determine the psychometric properties of language in dyadic interactions. Using text-analysis, it was possible to assess the degree to which people coordinate their word use in natural conversations. In Experiments 1 (n = 130) and 2 (n = 32), college students interacted in dyadic conversations in laboratory-based private Internet chat rooms. Experiment 3 analyzed the official transcripts of the Watergate tapes involving the dyadic interactions between President Richard Nixon and his aids H. R. Haldeman, John Erlichman, & John Dean. The results of the three studies offer substantial evidence that individuals in dyadic interactions exhibit linguistic style matching (LSM) on both the conversation level as well as on a turn-by-turn level. Furthermore, LSM is unrelated to ratings of the quality of the interaction by both participants and judges. We propose that a coordination-engagement hypothesis is a better description of linguistic behaviors than the coordination-rapport hypothesis that has been proposed in the nonverbal literature.
Synchronized verbal behavior can reveal important information about social dynamics. This study introduces the linguistic style matching (LSM) algorithm for calculating verbal mimicry based on an automated textual analysis of function words. The LSM algorithm was applied to language generated during a small group discussion in which 70 groups comprised of 324 individuals engaged in an information search task either face-to-face or via text-based computer-mediated communication. As a metric, LSM predicted the cohesiveness of groups in both communication environments, and it predicted task performance in face-to-face groups. Other language features were also related to the groups’ cohesiveness and performance, including word count, pronoun patterns, and verb tense. The results reveal that this type of automated measure of verbal mimicry can be an objective, efficient, and unobtrusive tool for predicting underlying social dynamics. In total, the study demonstrates the effectiveness of using language to predict change in social psychological factors of interest.
The present report used the comprehensive structural analysis of social behavior (SASB) observational coding scheme to examine which behaviors differentiate smooth from awkward initial romantic encounters. Participants on speed-dates rated as smooth (by independent observers) behaved more warmly and were more other-focused than participants on awkward dates. In addition, participants on smooth dates tended to avoid extremes on the autonomy dimension, exhibiting neither strong independence from nor strong interdependence with their speed-dating partners. Furthermore, the manner in which participants were self-focused (but not other-focused) reliably differentiated smooth from awkward dates; that is, date smoothness strongly predicted how participants reacted to their speed-dating partners (type of self-focus) but only weakly predicted how participants acted toward their speed-dating partners (type of other-focus). Finally, the authors note SASB’s potential to serve as an overarching framework that explains why some interactions go well and others do not.
By examining single-word reading times (in full sentences read for meaning), we show that (1) function words are accessed faster than content words, independent of perceptual characteristics; (2) previous failures to show this involved problems of frequency range and task used; and (3) these differences in lexical access are related to perceptual fluency. We relate these findings to issues in the literature on event-related potentials (ERPs) and neurolinguistics.
No one denies that people adapt what they say and how they interpret what is said to them, depending on their interactive partners. What is controversial is when and how they do so. Several psycholinguistics research programs have found what appear to be failures to adapt to partners in the early moments of processing and have used this evidence to argue for modularity in the language processing architecture, claiming that the system cannot take into account a partner’s distinct needs or knowledge early in processing. We review the evidence for both early and delayed partner-specific adaptations, and we identify some challenges and difficulties with interpreting this evidence. We then discuss new analyses from a previously published referential communication experiment (Metzing & Brennan, 2003) demonstrating that partner-specific effects need not occur late in processing. In contrast to Pickering and Garrod (2004) and Keysar, Barr, and Horton (1998b), we conclude that there is no good evidence that early processing has to be be “egocentric,”“dumb,” or encapsulated from social knowledge or common ground, but that under some circumstances, such as when one partner has made an attribution about another’s knowledge or needs, processing can be nimble enough to adapt quite early to a perspective different from one’s own.
The production and interpretation of pronouns involves the identification of a mental referent and, in connected speech or text, a discourse antecedent. One of the few overt signals of the relationship between a pronoun and its antecedent is agreement in features such as number and grammatical gender. To examine how speakers create these signals, two experiments tested conceptual, lexical, and morphophonological accounts of pronoun production in Dutch. The experiments employed sentence completion and continuation tasks with materials containing noun phrases that conflicted or agreed in grammatical gender. The noun phrases served as the antecedents for demonstrative pronouns (in Experiment 1) and relative pronouns (in Experiment 2) that required gender marking. Gender errors were used to assess the nature of the processes that established the link between pronouns and antecedents. There were more gender errors when candidate antecedents conflicted in grammatical gender, counter to the predictions of a pure conceptual hypothesis. Gender marking on candidate antecedents did not change the magnitude of this interference effect, counter to the predictions of an overt-morphology hypothesis. Mirroring previous findings about pronoun comprehension, the results suggest that speakers of gender-marking languages call on specific linguistic information about antecedents in order to select pronouns and that the information consists of specifications of grammatical gender associated with the lemmas of words.