AN INVESTIGATION OF COMPLIANCE-GAINING AS POLITENESS

Authors

  • LESLIE A. BAXTER

    1. Leslie A. Baxter (Ph. D., University of Oregon, 1975) is associate professor of communications at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon.
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

This study considers an alternative perspective on the compliance-gaining phenomenon, specifically the theory of politeness articulated by Brown and Levinson (1978). They posit that all interaction is characterized by concern over the other person's autonomy needs and his or her desire to be liked, manifested in message behavior that addresses these needs (i.e., politeness). Brown and Levinson's typology of politeness strategies was translated into 32 items to which 155 respondents indicated likelihood of use and perceived politeness. Respondents assessed the items while imagining themselves in one of eight hypothetical scenarios created to manipulate the three situational factors posited as significant by Brown and Levinson: relationship distance, relationship power, and the magnitude of the request. A factor analysis reduced the 32 tactics to four underlying factors, which in turn served as one variable set for a canonical correlation whose second variable set was the situational factors and the agent's gender. Results indicated that females and persons in close relationships use more polite tactics than males and persons in more distant relationships. Secondarily, results also indicated that persons with power use less politeness than less powerful persons.

Ancillary