Speech style and impression formation in a court setting: The effects of "powerful" and "powerless" speech

Journal Article

On the basis of a previous empirical analysis of speech patterns in court trials, speech styles were identified that covaried with speaker social status and power. The "powerless" style is characterized by the frequent use of such linguistic features as intensifiers, hedges, hesitation forms, and questioning intonations, whereas the "powerful" style is marked by less frequent use of these features. Male and female introductory psychology students heard the testimony of a male or female witness who used either a powerful or a powerless style to deliver the same substantive evidence. The testimony was presented either on audio tape or in written transcripts. Use of the powerful style resulted in greater attraction to the witness, regardless of the sex of the witness, the sex of the subject, or the mode of presentation of the testimony. The powerful style also resulted in greater perceived credibility of the witness than did the powerless style; however, this effect was stronger when the subject and the witness were of the same sex than when they were of the opposite sex. In all but the male witness-written presentation condition, the powerful style produced more acceptance of the position advocated in the testimony than did the powerless style. The results are discussed with regard to possible relations between speech style and person perception and persuasion processes and with regard to the social psychology of legal issues. © 1978.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Erickson, B; Lind, EA; Johnson, BC; O'Barr, WM

Published Date

  • 1978

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 14 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 266 - 279

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-1031