Language style matching
New research from the University of Texas at Austin shows that people match each other’s language styles more during happier periods in their relationship than at other times. From Science Daily:
“When two people start a conversation, they usually begin talking alike within a matter of seconds,” says James Pennebaker, psychology professor and co-author of the study. “This also happens when people read a book or watch a movie. As soon as the credits roll, they find themselves talking like the author or the central characters.”
This is called language style matching or LSM, and as it is automatic (people match their language with others without noticing), it’s apparently a good indicator of a relationship.
Style-matching scores were calculated between poetry written by two pairs of spouses, Victorian poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning and 20th century poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, which mapped major changes in their relationships.
“Style words in the spouses’ poems were more similar during happier periods of their relationships and less synchronized toward each relationship’s end,” Ireland says.
Differences in style matching between the two couples were revealing as well. Even at the high point of their marriage, Hughes and Plath were less in sync than the historically more harmonious Brownings were at their lowest point.
I wonder if style matching works across languages also? Is it easier to learn a new language if you’re in a relationship with someone who speaks that language?