The Relative Power of Negativity

The Influence of Language Intensity on Perceived Strength

Christine Liebrecht*, Lettica Hustinx, Margot van Mulken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Negative utterances and words have been found to be stronger than positive utterances and words, but what happens if positive and negative utterances are intensified? Two online experiments were carried out in which participants judged the strength of (un)intensified positive and negative evaluations in written dialogues. Both studies showed intensified language was perceived as stronger than unmarked language (i.e., language that was not intensified), and negative evaluations were stronger than positive evaluations. What is more, intensification and polarity interact; the increment of perceived strength for intensified positive adjectives (Study 1) and purely intensified adverbs (really, very; Study 2) was bigger than the increment in perceived strength of intensified negative adjective and adverbs. When a meaningful intensifier (deliciously, disgustingly) was used, the negativity effect remained. The findings were discussed within cognitive frameworks such as relevance theory, theory of mind, and theory on verbal aggression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-193
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Language and Social Psychology
Volume38
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • polarity
  • language intensity
  • stylistics
  • Pollyanna principle
  • negativity bias
  • word-of-mouth
  • VERBAL AGGRESSIVENESS
  • IMPRESSION-FORMATION
  • MESSAGE
  • MODEL
  • NEWS

Cite this

@article{2c9c5574d2e14d98be1d8e05ef5a6066,
title = "The Relative Power of Negativity: The Influence of Language Intensity on Perceived Strength",
abstract = "Negative utterances and words have been found to be stronger than positive utterances and words, but what happens if positive and negative utterances are intensified? Two online experiments were carried out in which participants judged the strength of (un)intensified positive and negative evaluations in written dialogues. Both studies showed intensified language was perceived as stronger than unmarked language (i.e., language that was not intensified), and negative evaluations were stronger than positive evaluations. What is more, intensification and polarity interact; the increment of perceived strength for intensified positive adjectives (Study 1) and purely intensified adverbs (really, very; Study 2) was bigger than the increment in perceived strength of intensified negative adjective and adverbs. When a meaningful intensifier (deliciously, disgustingly) was used, the negativity effect remained. The findings were discussed within cognitive frameworks such as relevance theory, theory of mind, and theory on verbal aggression.",
keywords = "polarity, language intensity, stylistics, Pollyanna principle, negativity bias, word-of-mouth, VERBAL AGGRESSIVENESS, IMPRESSION-FORMATION, MESSAGE, MODEL, NEWS",
author = "Christine Liebrecht and Lettica Hustinx and {van Mulken}, Margot",
year = "2019",
doi = "10.1177/0261927X18808562",
language = "English",
volume = "38",
pages = "170--193",
journal = "Journal of Language and Social Psychology",
issn = "0261-927X",
publisher = "Sage Publications, Inc.",
number = "2",

}

The Relative Power of Negativity : The Influence of Language Intensity on Perceived Strength. / Liebrecht, Christine; Hustinx, Lettica; van Mulken, Margot.

In: Journal of Language and Social Psychology, Vol. 38, No. 2, 2019, p. 170-193.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - The Relative Power of Negativity

T2 - The Influence of Language Intensity on Perceived Strength

AU - Liebrecht, Christine

AU - Hustinx, Lettica

AU - van Mulken, Margot

PY - 2019

Y1 - 2019

N2 - Negative utterances and words have been found to be stronger than positive utterances and words, but what happens if positive and negative utterances are intensified? Two online experiments were carried out in which participants judged the strength of (un)intensified positive and negative evaluations in written dialogues. Both studies showed intensified language was perceived as stronger than unmarked language (i.e., language that was not intensified), and negative evaluations were stronger than positive evaluations. What is more, intensification and polarity interact; the increment of perceived strength for intensified positive adjectives (Study 1) and purely intensified adverbs (really, very; Study 2) was bigger than the increment in perceived strength of intensified negative adjective and adverbs. When a meaningful intensifier (deliciously, disgustingly) was used, the negativity effect remained. The findings were discussed within cognitive frameworks such as relevance theory, theory of mind, and theory on verbal aggression.

AB - Negative utterances and words have been found to be stronger than positive utterances and words, but what happens if positive and negative utterances are intensified? Two online experiments were carried out in which participants judged the strength of (un)intensified positive and negative evaluations in written dialogues. Both studies showed intensified language was perceived as stronger than unmarked language (i.e., language that was not intensified), and negative evaluations were stronger than positive evaluations. What is more, intensification and polarity interact; the increment of perceived strength for intensified positive adjectives (Study 1) and purely intensified adverbs (really, very; Study 2) was bigger than the increment in perceived strength of intensified negative adjective and adverbs. When a meaningful intensifier (deliciously, disgustingly) was used, the negativity effect remained. The findings were discussed within cognitive frameworks such as relevance theory, theory of mind, and theory on verbal aggression.

KW - polarity

KW - language intensity

KW - stylistics

KW - Pollyanna principle

KW - negativity bias

KW - word-of-mouth

KW - VERBAL AGGRESSIVENESS

KW - IMPRESSION-FORMATION

KW - MESSAGE

KW - MODEL

KW - NEWS

U2 - 10.1177/0261927X18808562

DO - 10.1177/0261927X18808562

M3 - Article

VL - 38

SP - 170

EP - 193

JO - Journal of Language and Social Psychology

JF - Journal of Language and Social Psychology

SN - 0261-927X

IS - 2

ER -