Short Research Note
By their words ye shall know them: Language abstraction and the likeability of describers
Article first published online: 16 APR 2009
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
European Journal of Social Psychology
Volume 40, Issue 2, pages 366–374, March 2010
How to Cite
Douglas, K. M. and Sutton, R. M. (2010), By their words ye shall know them: Language abstraction and the likeability of describers. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 40: 366–374. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.634
- Issue published online: 12 FEB 2010
- Article first published online: 16 APR 2009
- Manuscript Accepted: 26 FEB 2009
- Manuscript Received: 1 MAY 2008
According to the linguistic category model (LCM), behaviour can be described at concrete (e.g. ‘Kath hit Kim’) and abstract (e.g. ‘Kath is aggressive’) levels. Variations in these levels convey information about the person being described and the relationship between that person and the describer. In the current research, we examined the power of language abstraction to create impressions of describers themselves. Results show that describers are seen as less likeable when they use abstract (vs. concrete) language to describe the negative actions of others. Conversely, impressions of describers are more favourable when they opt for abstract descriptions of others' positive behaviours. This effect is partially mediated by the attribution of a communicative agenda to describers. By virtue of these attributional implications, language abstraction is an impression formation device that can impact on the reputation of describers. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.