"When two people start a conversation, they usually begin talking alike within a matter of seconds," says James Pennebaker, psychology professor and co-author of the study. "This also happens when people read a book or watch a movie. As soon as the credits roll, they find themselves talking like the author or the central characters."
This tendency is called language style matching or LSM. It is the focus of Pennebaker's and co-author Molly E. Ireland's study published in the September issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
"Because style matching is automatic," says Ireland, a psychology graduate student, "it serves as an unobtrusive window into people's close relationships with others."
Ireland and Pennebaker tracked the language used by almost 2,000 college students as they responded to class assignments written in very different language styles. If the essay question was asked in a dry, confusing way, the students answered accordingly. If asked in a flighty, "Valley girl" way, the students punctuated their answers with "like," "sorta" and "kinda."
The researchers extended their work by analyzing the written language of famous authors. For example, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung wrote to each other almost weekly over a seven-year period as their careers were developing. Using style-matching statistics, Ireland and Pennebaker were able to chart the two men's tempestuous relationship from their early days of joint admiration to their final days of mutual contempt by counting the ways they used pronouns, prepositions and other words, such as the, you, a and as, that have little meaning outside the context of the sentence.
The style-matching approach proved to be a powerful bellwether of marriages as well. Style-matching scores were calculated between poetry written by two pairs of spouses, Victorian poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning and 20th century poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, which mapped major changes in their relationships.
"Style words in the spouses' poems were more similar during happier periods of their relationships and less synchronized toward each relationship's end," Ireland says.
Differences in style matching between the two couples were revealing as well. Even at the high point of their marriage, Hughes and Plath were less in sync than the historically more harmonious Brownings were at their lowest point.
Ireland and Pennebaker are investigating whether LSM during everyday conversation can be used to predict the beginning and end of romantic relationships. Style matching has the potential to quickly and easily reveal whether any given pair of people — ranging from business rivals to romantic partners — are psychologically on the same page and what this means for their future together.
For more information, contact: Michelle Bryant, College of Liberal Arts, 512 232 4730; James Pennebaker, Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts, 512-232-2781; Molly E. Ireland, Department of Psychology, 512-471-0691.
Michelle Bryant | EurekAlert!
Tile Based DASH Streaming for Virtual Reality with HEVC from Fraunhofer HHI
03.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Nachrichtentechnik Heinrich-Hertz-Institut
Product placement: Only brands placed very prominently benefit from 3D technology
07.07.2016 | Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences