People with similar views tend to closely mirror, or align, each other's speech patterns reveals a study done at the University of Rochester, New York. In addition, people who are better at compromising align more closely.
Co-author Florian Jaeger explained that few people are aware that they alter their word pronunciation, speech rate, and even the structure of their sentences during conversation, adding that they found that the degree to which speakers align is socially mediated.
Lead-author Kodi Weatherholtz said that people's social judgments about others and general attitude toward conflict are affecting even the most automatic and subconscious aspects of how they express themselves with language.
One of the researchers, Kathryn Campbell-Kibler, pointed out that testing for political influences on syntactic alignment might be interesting in its own right, but the purpose in this experiment was to influence social similarity and establish a situation in which participants were ideologically invested.
One reason people tend to align certain speech patterns is because it facilitates communication, Jaeger said. When we align how we talk, then sounds, words, and sentence structures become more predictable, making it easier to understand each other.
In addition to this well-known psychological function, the study's findings provide evidence that speech alignment serves a social function. Similarity is a powerful social force, Jaeger explained.
The findings shed new light on the relationship between human psychology and social behavior, Jaeger said. They suggest that social factors "piggy back" on the subconscious process, which is primary, and can boost the degree of alignment.