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Power and personality in linguistic style accommodation

Muir, Kate; Joinson, Adam; Cotterill, Rachel; Dewdney, Nigel


Kate Muir

Rachel Cotterill

Nigel Dewdney



People often mimic each other’s communication behaviours, and this is associated with positive social outcomes. This extends to linguistic style accommodation, which refers to synchronisation in an individual’s use of function words. Across two studies, we investigate the importance of social power and personality in predicting the likelihood of linguistic style accommodation occurring, and the social and personal outcomes of such accommodation.


We manipulated social power to elicit a series of dyadic interactions, face-to-face (study 1) and via computer mediated communication (study 2) between individuals of high power (study 1 N = 12, study 2 N = 13) versus low power (study 1 N = 12, study 2 N = 13), and a control group of neutral power (study 1 N = 16, study 2 N = 26). Participants completed personality questionnaires, and additional measures related to interaction quality and impression formation after each interaction.


The greatest extent of linguistic style accommodation occurred when individuals with personality traits associated with sociality, need for social approval and duplicity were placed in a position of lower power than their interlocutor. Linguistic style accommodation by low power individuals positively influenced perceptions of subjective rapport and social attractiveness. These results applied across face-to-face and computer-mediated-communication interactions.


Personality traits predispose individuals to alter their communication behaviours in response to affiliation motivations triggered by the social context. Further, linguistic style accommodation could be a powerful and unconscious cue into impression formation, equally or more influential than outwardly detectable aspects of behaviour

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Start Date Sep 9, 2015
Publication Date Sep 9, 2015
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
APA6 Citation Muir, K., Joinson, A., Cotterill, R., & Dewdney, N. (2015, September). Power and personality in linguistic style accommodation. Paper presented at British Psychological Society Developmental and Social Section Annual Conference
Keywords linguistic style, personality
Publisher URL
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : British Psychological Society Developmental and Social Section Annual Conference