Effects of speech style and sex of speaker on person perception

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Abstract

R. T. Lakoff (1975) has suggested that men and women use different speech styles, with women's speech more polite but less assertive than men's. The assumption that 3 of Lakoff's linguistic variables (tag questions, qualifiers, and compound requests) affect person perception in these ways was tested. Sex of speaker was also varied. In Exp I, 80 undergraduates rated the assertiveness, warmth, and politeness of 2 male and 2 female speakers who used or did not use the 3 linguistic forms. All 3 “female” linguistic forms were rated less assertive than corresponding “male” forms; qualified speech and compound requests were rated warmer and compound requests more polite. Sex of speaker was a significant factor in only one possible comparison. These results were substantially replicated in Exp II, in which older and/or less educated women (32 18–58 yr olds) acted as judges. Findings suggest that Lakoff's intuitions concerning effects of speech styles on person perception are largely correct and that modification of speech styles could allow men and women to affect how they are perceived. (23 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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