Language and interpersonal cognition: causal effects of variations in pronoun usage on perceptions of closeness.
Four studies examined the hypothesis that subtle language variations can have a causal impact on perceptions of relationships. In interpersonal interactions, language can function implicitly to reflect, perpetuate, and communicate relationship perceptions. Previous research has shown that interpersonal closeness and plural pronoun use are correlated; the current research demonstrates that manipulating pronoun use can lead people to perceive their own and other relationships as closer and higher in quality. In Study 1, participants who read about a relationship that was described using the pronoun we versus she and I perceived the relationship to be closer and of higher quality. Study 2 showed that pronoun variations similarly affected perceptions of participants' own ongoing relationships; Study 3 showed similar effects for perceptions of an actual interpersonal interaction. Study 4 examined potential mechanisms of this effect.
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