Research on language abstraction has primarily been focused on the language that is used to describe (intergroup) behaviors, while limited attention has been given to communication about objects. This article aims to fill this gap and studies biases in language abstraction in the descriptions of interactions with objects. Study 1 demonstrated a linguistic expectancy bias in this setting: People described expectancy-congruent experiences with objects more abstractly than incongruent experiences. Study 2 examined a mediator, and provides data suggesting that expectancy-congruent (vs. incongruent) experiences were more likely attributed to the object (vs. the situation/user), and this causal inference mediated the effect of expectancy-(in)congruence on language use. Study 3 examined the impact of communication goals, and found that the goal to convince a receiver of the high quality of a product (vs. no persuasion goal) led to more abstract descriptions of positive experiences with objects and to more concrete language for negative experiences.

, , , ,,
ERIM Top-Core Articles
Journal of Language and Social Psychology
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Schellekens, G., Verlegh, P., & Smidts, A. (2013). Linguistic Biases and Persuasion in Communication About Objects. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 32(3), 291–310. doi:10.1177/0261927X12466083