Selection Bias in Choice of Words: Evaluations of ”I” and ”We” Differ between Contexts, but ”They” are Always Worse

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In everyday life, people use language to communicate evaluative messages about social categories. We examine a selection bias in language across two social dimensions not previously integrated; a self-inclusive/self-exclusive dimension and an individual/collective dimension. We used pronouns as markers for social categories (I, We, He/she and They), and developed a new measure, the Evaluative Sentence Generating (ESG) 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. The ESG-task shows how language is used to form evaluative differences between social categories even in the absence of explicit comparisons or descriptions of specified persons or groups, and that it constitutes a new, simple and effective tool for measuring such biases across a number of domains.


Enheter & grupper

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Psykologi


Sidor (från-till)49-67
TidskriftJournal of Language and Social Psychology
Utgåva nummer1
StatusPublished - 2014
Peer review utfördJa