Communication accommodation theory: understanding language use in social interaction
Green, James Allan
Communication accommodation theory (CAT) is currently the most encompassing theory of language use in social situations. It seeks to explain not only language use, but also the social psychological processes underlying language use. At CAT’s core is three adaption strategies: convergence, maintenance, and divergence. That is, adapting toward, not adapting, or adapting away from the language used by one’s conversational partner. However, as well as describing how language changes, CAT explains why people use different strategies, and what follow-on effects use of these strategies cause. In the Chapter 2, CAT was applied to a novel communication medium — toilet graffiti. Graffiti were collected verbatim from adjacent male toilets, female toilets, and study booths. Gender differences in language styles used in male and female toilets were generally consistent with those found in other media. These differences were mitigated in the mixed-gender context (study booths), suggesting convergence of gendered language. Neither accommodation nor gendered language has been considered in adolescence, even though it has been argued that adolescence may be a key time for the development of such behaviour. In Chapter 3, 40 participants were paired in same- and mixed-gender dyads. Stronger gender differences were found in same-gender dyads, with clear evidence of partner effects. Taken together, these findings suggest that adolescents do use gendered language in similar ways to adult populations, and that they also accommodate to gendered language styles. A key untested hypothesis of CAT is that attraction or similarity should influence the amount of convergence in an interpersonal conversation. I manipulated physical attractiveness to test this hypothesis in Chapter 4, using images previously rated as high or medium attractive. 64 participants were sent randomly assigned high or medium attractive images of an opposite gender confederate netpal. Participants exchanged a series of emails with the confederate, who used either a male- or female-typical language style. As predicted, participants with a highly attractive netpal converged more than participants with a less attractive netpal. In Chapter 5, individual differences were considered in both the use of gendered language and convergence to gendered language. Higher levels of convergence were best predicted by lower self-monitoring scores, but were also related to more feminine scores for females. Gendered language was not consistently predicted by any one variable, but an overall pattern emerged. Finally, in Chapter 6, results were integrated with previous research and different theoretical perspectives. Numerous exciting possibilities for future research were also outlined. Overall, CAT was strengthened by my findings, but there is much research that can still be done.
Advisor: Murachver, Tamar; Bayard, Donn
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Psychology
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis
x, 217, lxxxvi leaves :ill. ; 30 cm. Includes bibliographical references. University of Otago department: Psychology. "July 21, 2003".