Reciprocity in Language: Evidence for the effect of reciprocal relationships on the use of audience design.
Wardrope, Jillian A.
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It is an established notion in psychology that external factors affect how we behave and what we say. Working on a largely non-conscious basis, the influence of others can affect aspects of behaviour such as our posture, through what has been described as the ‘chameleon effect’ (Chartrand & Bargh, 1999), or our linguistic behaviour, through a priming effect involving others’ linguistic choices (Branigan, Pickering & Cleland, 2000a). Through a process known as audience design (Bell, 2001), we can also use the verbal and non-verbal behaviours displayed by our interaction partners to specifically tailor our utterances for their needs as a listener. However, the extent to which we conduct this tailoring rests upon a number of factors in the immediate circumstances. It is the purpose of this study to ascertain whether or not it is possible for the reciprocal relationship that is established between interaction partners to affect their linguistic behaviour and, if so, whether this constitutes a stable phenomenon affecting other areas of the interaction or if it is restricted to the immediate speech environment. Using a card-matching task paradigm, the evidence would suggest that the reciprocal relationship established could indeed affect the way in which we design our utterances for an intended audience. Specifically, it is shown that those who experience a positive reciprocal relationship are far more likely to consider audience design when planning and producing utterances than those who have experienced a negative one. However, future research is needed to provide confirmation of these results and should be aimed at teasing the suggested effect of reciprocity on linguistic behaviour apart from those of other mechanisms such as priming.