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Lecture 16

COM 350 Lecture 16:


Department
Communication
Course Code
COM 350
Professor
Marko Dragojevic
Lecture
16

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COM350: Lecture Notes Linguistic Biases
Biases in language use
o Our language choices, whether conscious or unconscious, are not “neutral” but rather “biased”
Reflect our own social beliefs, stereotypes, and existing social dynamics
We use different language to describe different groups
Create and reinforce group stereotypes
Linguistic bias: asymmetry in language use based on the target’s social group membership(s)
Category labels
o
Asymmetry in language use
We mark things we see as unexpected/stereotype-inconsistent (e.g., we say “family
man” and “career woman” but not family woman” and “career man”)
Reflect stereotypic beliefs
We mark things we see as unexpected (and therefore worthy of comment)
Doing so creates a subtype or exception
o Allows us to maintain our existing stereotypes while acknowledging a
specific (atypical) case
Linguistic category model: We can describe actions using four classes of words that vary in their
level of abstraction
o
Descriptive action verbs (most concrete): objective description of a specific, observable
behavior (e.g., A hit B)
o
Interpretive action verbs: interpretive description of behavior (e.g., A hurt B)
o
State verbs: description in terms of enduring, psychological states (e.g., A hates B)
o
Adjectives (most abstract): description in terms of general dispositions (e.g., A is aggressive)
Linguistic Intergroup Bias (LIB)
o
Asymmetry in language use
Positive ingroup and negative outgroup behaviors tend to be described using
abstract language
Negative ingroup and positive outgroup behaviors tend to be described using
concrete language
Examples
A man punches another person
o Ingroup: he punched the other guy
o Outgroup: he is aggressive
A man helps an old lady cross the street
o Ingroup: he is kind
o Outgroup: he walked the lady across the street”
o
Consequences
Concrete language encourages situational (i.e., unstable) attributions
Negative ingroup and positive outgroup behaviors are represented as
atypical, exceptions to the rule
Abstract language encourages dispositional (i.e., stable) attributions
Positive ingroup and negative outgroup behaviors are represented as
typical, stable traits (i.e., it’s in their nature to act that way)
This helps to maintain positive ingroup stereotypes and negative outgroup
stereotypes
Linguistic Expectancy Bias (LEB)
o There is a similar pattern when people describe expected vs. unexpected behaviors
o
Asymmetry in language use
Unexpected behaviors tend to be described using concrete language
Expected behaviors tend to be described using abstract language
o
Consequences
Because we generally expect ingroup members to display positive behaviors and
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