Successful Relationships Linked to Language Similarities

Summary

“Language style matching” (LSM) is a newly developed tool used in psychological research. It is used to predict the level to which two people unknowingly try to match their style of talking to each other. LSM focuses upon functional words like pronouns and articles and compares similarity between the speech and writing of two people. In this study, this test was performed in two different ways to arrive at a conclusion. Researchers found that people with language similarities are likely to meet each other again after a speed date, as well as form a lasting relationship.

Introduction

Selecting a mate and establishing a long-term relationship is a subject often studied in psychology. It is known that people with similar traits are likely to become attracted to each other and form lasting bonds. The contribution of non-verbal communication (like gestures, eye gaze, etc.) to a successful romantic relationship is already established. In this study, the influence of language similarity in strong, loving relations was examined. The study authors state that, “LSM…reflects not only each partner’s attempts to engage the other, but also the degree to which these attempts are reciprocated.” Thus by studying LSM, one can predict whether two individuals will get together and stay together as a couple or not.

Methodology

  • In the first study, 40 men and 40 women (average age of around 20 years) were selected for their participation in a speed-dating session. Their four-minute sessions of speed-dating were recorded and the transcripts later studied.
  • After this, participants rated their partners based on whether they found that they had “a lot in common” with each other and after 24 hours they indicated to a website whether they wanted to meet their speed-date partner again.
  • In the second study, 86 heterosexual couples in committed relationships provided details of their Internet messages and chats. Then they answered a questionnaire on the level of satisfaction in the relationships.
  • Language content of speech in the first study and written text in the second study were analysed to determine LSM.

Key findings

  • In the first study, out of those who had LSM higher than the median – i.e. their language matched better with each other – 33.3% were mutually interested in contacting each other.
  • However from those with LSM less than the median, only 9.1% were interested in meeting each other again.
  • In the second study, 76.7% of couples with LSM scores higher than the median were still dating three months later while this figure was 53.5% for couples whose scores were less than the median.

Next steps

With the discovery of “Language Style Matching” (LSM) as a tool to predict the success or failure of a relationship, it could be used in fields of other social relationships or dynamics, including academics and work environments.

Conclusion

The exact basis of a sustainable romantic relationship is yet to be fully understood, but generally non-conscious communication is considered important. It is found that if the languages of two persons match well, romantic relationships are not only begun successfully, but also sustained over a long duration. The review authors say, “It is likely that LSM and its underlying psychological processes are bidirectionally linked.” In other words, it is possible that couples find each other attractive because their languages match. On the other hand, their languages could become more similar as the relationship deepens. Hence, this study has shed light on the workings of language as a factor in the success or failure of a relationship between two persons.

For More Information:

Language Style Matching Predicts Relationship Initiation and Stability

Psychological Science, December 2010

By Molly E. Ireland; Richard B. Slatcher

From the University of Texas, Austin, Texas, and the Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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