Language style matching in relationships

New research suggests that people, particularly those who are happy in relationships, tend to match their language to those of those around them or to authors they have just read. Here are some of the findings:

Pennebaker and his colleagues tracked language use by 2,000 college students responding to class assignments written in different language styles. The results confirmed that language style matching extends to the written word. When an essay question was written in a dry, confusing tone, students responded with dry, confusing answers. If the question took a flighty, casual tone, students responded with “Valley girl”-like answers peppered with “like” and “sorta.”

Next, the researchers used historical figures to find out if language style matching could reveal schisms or closeness in a relationship.

They began with Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, psychologists who corresponded almost weekly for seven years. Using style-matching statistics, the researchers were able to chart the two men’s tempestuous relationship from their early days of joint admiration to their final days of mutual contempt by counting the ways they used pronouns, prepositions and other words, such as “the,” “you,” “a” and “as,” that have little meaning outside the context of the sentence. Such words can be indicators of a person’s style of writing (and speaking)…

Married Victorian Poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, along with 20th century poet couple Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, also revealed more in their poetry than they perhaps realized.

I’ll have to watch for this. How much do others typically pick up on this when being around people who are matching each other’s language? Is this how we know people “are good together”?

Matching workers to job slots in the American economy

In economic times like the United States is in now, it would seem logical that all open jobs would attract workers. But this is not the case, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. Economic changes have “created a glut of people who can’t qualify for highly skilled jobs but have a hard time adjusting to low-pay, unskilled work.”

One way to think of the job market is a process where workers are matched with job slots. If the workers change or the job slots change, the system can get out of whack. From the article:

Matching people with available jobs is always difficult after a recession as the economy remakes itself. But Labor Department data suggest the disconnect is particularly acute this time around. Since the economy bottomed out in mid-2009, the number of job openings has risen more than twice as fast as actual hires, a gap that didn’t appear until much later in the last recovery. The disparity is most notable in manufacturing, which has had among the biggest increases in openings. But it is also appearing in other areas, such as business services, education and health care.

If the job market were working normally—that is, if openings were getting filled as they usually do—the U.S. should have about five million more gainfully employed people than it does, estimates David Altig, research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. That would correspond to an unemployment rate of 6.8%, instead of 9.5%.

So it is not as easy turning around the economy by simply creating jobs – there also have to be workers to fill these slots. This is a process that involves workers acquiring particular educations and skills and employers shifting their expectations for employees to take advantage of who may be available to work at that time.