The role of social dominance in lexical alignment
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Previous research has found that people mimic the words uttered by their interlocutors who they believed to be less intelligent. According to the Speech Accommodation Theory people tend to converge for approval and to increase liking. We report an experiment investigating whether people also mimic the words chosen by their conversational partner who they believed to be of a higher social status than themselves. Participants played a picture-matching and -naming game in which they believed that they were interacting with either another student or a university professor. In both conditions their “interlocutor” was actually a computer program producing pre-scripted names for pictures. Participants demonstrated a marginal tendency to repeat the disfavoured name for the picture that their “interlocutor” had used in a previous turn in both conditions. It appears that speakers do form judgments about their interlocutor but that lexical alignment is mainly an automatic process.