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Keywords:

  • language abstraction;
  • selection linguistic bias;
  • collective language use;
  • group enhancement

Abstract

The present contribution tested the general hypothesis that individual tendencies in the choice of terms at different levels of abstraction are enhanced when the same descriptions are formulated by a group. We compared the level of abstraction of individual and collective written judgements about applicants for a job position and found that the selection linguistic bias collectively expressed by hiring committees became more extreme in the direction established by initial individual judgements. Negative terms used to describe rejected applicants became more abstract, and those used to describe selected applicants became more concrete from individual to collective judgements. Conversely, positive terms employed to describe rejected applicants were more concrete in collective than individual judgements. Implications of these findings for the notion of language as a tool that enables coupling between group-shared knowledge and group goals activated by the task at hand are discussed. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.