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UT researchers have discovered that the more a couple matches in their use of functional words, the more likely they would be attracted to each other
Researchers from the Department of Psychology have discovered that your own speaking style may play a factor in deciding who you're attracted to
When was the last time you checked someone out solely by listening to his or her voice? As it turns out, attraction may not be skin-deep, but is based on the way couples communicate with each other, suggests a new University of Texas study.
Researchers James Pennebaker and Molly Ireland from UT’s Department of Psychology conducted a two-part study on the communication skills of college students and how their communication correlates to attraction. The recent study was published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
The use of functional words, or words that relate nouns and verbs to each other in the context of the conversation – such as the, be, a, anything, and, that, and him – and the conversations in which these terms were matched between individuals indicated the likelihood that they would be more attracted to each other.
“Function words are highly social and they require social skills to use,” Pennebaker said in a UT press release. “For example, if I’m talking about the article that’s coming out, and in a few minutes I make some reference to ‘the article,’ you and I both know what the article means.” However, if someone else were to miss the first part of the conversation, they wouldn’t understand what “the article” referred to.
In order to predict whether this style of communicating will lead to dating and long-term relationships, the researchers studied writing and speaking samples that couples adopted in their conversations.
During one study, college students coupled off and received four minutes to talk to each other in a speed-dating format while their conversations were recorded. Though students covered similar topics such as majors and hometowns, the couples whose language styles matched were nearly four times as probable to connect with and contact the other person.
“What’s wonderful about this is we don’t really make that decision, it just comes out of our mouths,” Pennebaker said.
In the second part of the study, the researchers looked at text analysis of instant messaging and online chats. Over the course of 10 days, these resources indicated that nearly 80 percent of couples whose writing style matched were still dating after three months, but the probability dropped to 54 percent for couples whose styles did not match as well, according to the study's press release.
Phillip Pham, a second year biology student at UT, agrees that tiny verbal cues can help relationships. Pham and his girlfriend Linda Long have been dating for almost two month, and the Dallas natives both believe their conversation skills are an important aspect to connecting with each other.
“When I use other people's names for example, I tend to use her so that I don't keep repeating names. [Linda] knows who I'm talking about,” Pham said. “It helps where I don't want to annoy her by repeating myself or push her away.”
Interested in discovering your language style? If you’d like to take the survey, click here.