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Personal Pronouns in Evaluative Communication
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Personal pronouns represent important social categories; they are among the most common words in communication and are therefore highly interesting in studying psychological perspectives and relations. The aim of this thesis was to investigate whether pronouns are used in semantic contexts in a way that reflect psychological biases. Specifically, I have tested whether self-, group-serving- and gender biases occur when pronouns are used in natural language. To study this, I developed a structure for pronouns in social categorization where the pronouns are categorized in a self-inclusive/exclusive, an individual/collective, and a gender dimension. New methods for examining pronouns usage in language were developed in the thesis, for use in experiments and in computerized studies of large data corpora of media news. The results of this thesis showed that self-inclusive pronouns (I, We) consistently were used in more positive contexts than self-exclusive pronouns (He, She, They) by participants who generated messages in the lab (Study I), and by journalists in written media news (Study II). Study I revealed that the evaluative context surrounding I and We varied according to the specific communicative situation. When individuals generated messages individually, more positive contexts were selected for I than We. However in a collaborative setting, We occurred in contexts of similar valence as I. An intergroup setting magnified the differences between self-inclusive and self-exclusive pronouns (e.g., between We and They and between I and He/She). In an analysis of 400 000 news media messages, We occurred in more positive context than I (Study II). In Study III, the contexts of He and She in these media news were examined. The results showed that He occurred nine times more often, and in more positive contexts than She. Moreover, words associated with She included more labels denoting gender, and were more uniform than words associated with He. In sum, this thesis shows that studying the use of pronouns is a fruitful way to investigate social psychology phenomena. The thesis contributes to the understanding of how pronoun use convey knowledge about social cognition, attitudes, gender stereotypes, as well as interpersonal and intergroup relations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Psychology, Stockholm University , 2013. , 76 p.
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-97479ISBN: 978-91-7447-826-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-97479DiVA: diva2:678269
Public defence
2014-01-24, David Magnussonsalen (U31), Frescati Hagväg 8, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Manuscript.

 

Available from: 2014-01-02 Created: 2013-12-11 Last updated: 2014-01-27Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Selection Bias in Choice of Words:: Evaluations of "I" and "We" Differ Between Contexts, but "They" Are Always Worse
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Selection Bias in Choice of Words:: Evaluations of "I" and "We" Differ Between Contexts, but "They" Are Always Worse
2014 (English)In: Journal of language and social psychology, ISSN 0261-927X, E-ISSN 1552-6526, Vol. 33, no 1, 49-67 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In everyday life, people use language to communicate evaluative messages about social categories. A selection bias in language across two social dimensions not previously integrated was examined: a self-inclusive/self-exclusive dimension and an individual/collective dimension. Pronouns as markers for social categories were adopted (I, We, He/She, and They), and a new measure was developed (the Evaluative Sentence Generating task) to investigate the evaluative context selected for the pronouns. Results demonstrate that individuals select a more positive context for self-inclusive than self-exclusive pronouns and a more positive contexts for individual than collective pronouns. However, in an interpersonal context, evaluative differences between I and We diminished, whereas in an intergroup condition the evaluative gap between self-inclusive and self-exclusive pronouns was magnified.

National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-96787 (URN)10.1177/0261927X13495856 (DOI)000328608200004 ()
Available from: 2013-11-26 Created: 2013-11-26 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
2. Biases in news media as reflected by personal pronouns in evaluative contexts
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Biases in news media as reflected by personal pronouns in evaluative contexts
2014 (English)In: Social Psychology, ISSN 1864-9335, E-ISSN 2151-2590, Vol. 45, no 2, 103-111 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper examines whether pronouns in news media occurred in evaluative contexts reflecting psychological biases. Contexts of pronouns were measured by computerized semantic analysis. Results showed that self-inclusive personal pronouns (WeI) occurred in more positive contexts than self-exclusive pronouns (He/SheThey), reflecting self- and group-serving biases. Contexts of collective versus individual pronouns varied; Weoccurred in more positive contexts than I, and He/She in more positive contexts than They. The enhancement of collective relative to individual self-inclusive pronouns may reflect that media news is a public rather than private domain. The reversed pattern among self-exclusive pronouns corroborates suggestions that outgroup derogation is most pronounced at the category level. Implications for research on language and social psychology are discussed.

Keyword
pronouns in social categorization, language bias, intergroup bias, self-serving bias, latent semantic analysis, implicit attitudes
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-96788 (URN)10.1027/1864-9335/a000165 (DOI)000333428500005 ()
Available from: 2013-11-26 Created: 2013-11-26 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
3. She” and “He” in news media messages: Pronoun use reflects gender biases in frequencies, as well as in evaluative and semantic contexts
Open this publication in new window or tab >>She” and “He” in news media messages: Pronoun use reflects gender biases in frequencies, as well as in evaluative and semantic contexts
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-97478 (URN)
Available from: 2013-12-11 Created: 2013-12-11 Last updated: 2013-12-13

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