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Social Psychology Lecture 6 Social Psychology of Language Jane Clarbour (Spring 2002)

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2 Social Psychology Lecture 6 Social Psychology of Language Jane Clarbour (Spring 2002)

3 Overview 1.Content Theory of equivocation Avoidance-avoidance conflict Ratings of equivocation Threats to face 2.Style Speech accommodation theory Accent convergence and divergence Postural congruence 3.Function Discourse analysis Discursive action model Accountability

4 Objectives Give an account of Bavelas et al.’s theory of equivocation Give an account of Speech Accommodation Theory using empirical examples of accent convergence and divergence Demonstrate an understanding of what is meant by discourse analysis Give an account of what is meant by stake, interest, and accountability Discuss an example of a study based on discourse analysis

5 Key Reading Beattie & Doherty (1995) –Discursive construction of victims and perpetators in Northern Ireland Giles et al. (1987) –Speech accommodation theory: the first decade and beyond Henley et al. (1995) –Syntax, semantics, and sexual violence: agency and the passive voice

6 The content of speech Equivocation (Bavelas et al., 1990) –Avoidance-avoidance conflict –Types of replies –Ratings of equivocation –Equivocation theory –Threats to face

7 Equivocation (Bavelas et al. 1990) Circumstances in which people avoid replying to questions –Avoidance-avoidance conflict Telling truth = bad Telling lie = bad Try to avoid both negative alternatives Especially when telling the truth serves no real purpose.. Yuk!!! I appreciate your thoughtfulness!

8 Avoidance-avoidance conflict Conflict situations –e.g. students were asked to respond to following: ‘Another student in a small class, which meets three times for the entire year, has just given a class presentation. It was very poorly done – poorly prepared, and poorly delivered. After he sits down again, he passes you a note “How did I do?” you have to jot something down and pass it back to him. What would you write as an answer?’

9 Avoidance-avoidance replies Bavelas (1990) identified three types of equivocal, avoidance-avoidance answer: –Subtle change responses (‘you were’ ‘it was’) –Deferred replies ( postponement ) –Hints (but doesn’t answer directly)

10 Subtle change responses Changes in speech content from ‘you were’ ‘it was’ Changes the answer from the person to the presentation It was okay, but there were things that could have been improved!

11 Deferred replies Postponement –Answers obliquely –Changes the topic “I wasn’t quite sure what you were getting at, but the idea behind it was good” “shall we meet later and talk about it over coffee?”

12 Indirect responses Hints (but doesn’t answer directly) “You should have spent a little more time preparing for the presentation. It only needed a little more work to be a really good presentation”

13 Equivocation theory Communicative responses are dimensional –Responses including avoidance-avoidance conflicts are more equivocal Direct avoidance- responses avoidance replies Theory states that although it is the individual who equivocates..

14 Situational determinants It is the communicative situation that is the cause of the equivocation –Change of approach from the personality of the equivocator to that of the situation So, although politicians are notorious for equivocation, they equivocate so much because they are so frequently placed in avoidance- avoidance conflicts!

15 Evaluation of equivocation theory 3 main criticisms: 1.Lack of theoretical basis 2.Causes rather than effects 3.Implicit vs non-replies Implicit replies as highly skilled social skill

16 Threats to face (Bull et al. 1996) Self-presentation –‘Threats to face’ create avoidance- avoidance conflicts –politicians avoid responses that make them look bad. If a question is posed that makes a politician, colleague, or the party look bad – avoid reply If a question does not pose a threat to face – reply.

17 Speech styles Speech Accommodation theory –Studies of accent convergence –Studies of accent divergence

18 Speech Accommodation Theory Based on BYRNE’s (1969) similarity- attraction theory –The more similar are our attitudes and beliefs to another, the more likely it is that we will be attracted to them –Speech is accommodated in order to reduce dissimilarites

19 Studies of accent Accent divergence –To disassociate from the listener the speaker may emphasise pronunciation dissimilarities Accent convergence –To gain another’s approval, the speaker may reduce pronunciation dissimilarities Upward accent convergence Downward accent convergence

20 Studies of accent convergence COUPLAND (1984) –Observed accent convergence in a travel agency. Number of h’s sounded by assistant varied from 3.7% to 29.3% Significantly correlated with the proportion sounded by her clients

21 Accent divergence (Bourhis & Giles, 1977) Welsh students on Welsh language course… –Ss asked to take part in a survey concerned with 2 nd language learning techniques. –Ss listened to questions posed by very English sounding tutor who at one point asked… –Responses showed extreme accent divergence following this attack: Broadened their Welsh accent Introduction of Welsh words and phrases 1 Ss was silent – then produced Welsh expletive into the microphone! “Why on earth do you want to study a dying language with a dismal future?”

22 Experimental manipulation of convergence levels Giles & Smith (1979) A Canadian male speaker prepared a series of tapes describing the educational system in Ontario for English speakers –The speaker accommodated in terms of 3 levels of speech convergence: message content –(original length = 120 words / speaker added 85 words to elaborate on items) Pronunciation –(originally BBC/ to RP accent) speech rate –(normal rate = 145 words per minute / slowed down to 100 wpm) –The tapes were rated by a group of teachers in England…

23 Communication Accommodation Theory (Giles et al. 1987) Nonverbal communication –The concept of speech accommodation has been broadened out to include non-verbal communication Postural congruence SCHEFLEN (1964) –People accommodate towards each others posture (mirror imaging) –Similarity of posture may signal similarity of views or roles in a group –Non-congruence of posture may indicate marked divergence in attitude or status

24 Discourse analysis How people perceive and interpret social interaction (especially communication). –But emphasis not simply on how individuals construct reality based upon interpretation of situations –Instead, a pragmatic consideration of the entire ‘whole’: the situation, the past history, future intentions, motivation, the roles of the individuals, what is said, what isn’t said

25 Discourse as a social construction… All language is considered by the discourse analyst as constructed –To make sense of experience –A production of an account in relation to something/someone –To convey an idea –To justify action –To impart blame –It is not necessary for the account to be consciously constructed …or seen as true/untrue A description of something to a friend or parent may differ – placing different emphasis in each construction (Potter & Wetherell, 1987)

26 Discursive Action Model (Edwards & Potter, 1993) 3 major principles of discourse –Action –Fact and Interest –Accountability Each contains 3 components…

27 Discursive Action Model (Edwards & Potter, 1993) ACTION Focus on action, not cognition –Attributions are discursive actions Not as perceptions or translations –Attributions occur in ‘activity sequences’ They involve interpersonal issues: –Blame, reward, invitation, compliment etc Attributions are elements in social activities

28 Discursive Action Model (Edwards & Potter, 1993) FACT and INTEREST Analysis of interest or motivation in the action sequence –Statements of factual accounts Truth portrayed through direct perception of account (e.g ‘I saw it…’) –Descriptive accounts constructed –Selective accounts organised to represent a particular rhetorical argument or perspective

29 Discursive Action Model ACCOUNTABILITY –Analysis of who/what originally caused the event Who is accountable for its occurrence? How accountable is the current person in the event? How accountable is the reporter of the event?

30 Discursive Action Model Stake or Interest - how does the speaker construct an account without appearing partisan or biased (which would reduce credibility) Accountability - Depending upon the function of the talk, speakers may emphasise or de-emphasis both their own accountability and the accountability of the other person –…for actions –…for accuracy –…for the interactional consequences of those accounts –…to claim (or disclaim) credit

31 Example of discourse analysis (Beatie & Doherty, 1995) Eyewitness accounts (protestant) of an assassination & assassination attempts in N.Ireland. John & Jean own a video shop in N.Belfast. The Irish Provisional Liberation Org. attempted to murder Jean in Oct ’91, and in Feb ’92 they returned and murdered her 16-yr-old assistant, William.

32 Jean’s construction of the attempted murder (Beatie & Doherty, 1995) Jean recalls the attempted murder… Car pulls up in front of her (factual presentation) a) Going to say hello? (false, but credible, belief) b) Simply a bad driver? (false, but credible, belief) Jean establishes herself as a credible witness –wouldn’t everyone think this…She is after all an ORDINARY woman  Vivid recall of events JEAN IS DE-EMPHASISING HER STAKE OR INTEREST

33 Agency and the passive voice (Henley et al., 1995) Active voice –In the U.S. a man rapes a woman every 6 minutes Passive voice –In the U.S. a woman is raped by a man every 6 minutes “A woman was sort of raped in the parking lot

34 Summary Theories of communication have largely developed in isolation to each other –Equivocation theory Focus on the content of speech –Accommodation theory Focus on communicative style –Discourse analysis Focus on the communicative function Verb voice changes the semantics of the communication

35 Conclusions Equivocation –considered as a special form of accommodation as people equivocate in order not to diverge too sharply from their listeners –Discourse analysts would question why Discourse analysis (DA) –is a philosophical and ideological approach to social understanding based upon an analysis of the function of words. –DA considers social interaction to be motivated, goal driven and socially constructed

36 What next.. Practical 2 (Assessed) Quantitative analysis of communication Lecture 7 – Focus on attitudes

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