World news – Changes in writing style provide clues about group identity

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February 24, 2021

from the University of Exeter

Small changes in people’s writing style can reveal which social group they « belong » to at any given time, new research shows.

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Groups are central to human identity, and most people are part of multiple groups based on common interests or characteristics – from local clubs to national identity.

If any of those group memberships are in a becomes relevant to a certain situation, behavior tends to follow the norms of this group, so that people behave « appropriately ».

The new study by the University of Exeter, Imperial College London, University College London and Lancaster University shows that the normative behavior of a group is reflected in the writing style of a person.

It also shows that the assessment of the writing style can show with an accuracy of about 70% which of two groups affected a person when writing a certain text .

To demonstrate their method, the researchers examined how people who are parents and feminists change their writing style rn when they switch from one identity to another in anonymous online forums like Reddit, Mumsnet and Netmums.

« People are not just one thing – we change who we are, our identity from situation to situation, » said Dr. Miriam Koschate-Reis, from the Department of Psychology and the Department of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Exeter.

« In the current situation, many people have to switch between parents and employees when trying to do home schooling, childcare and work commitments Manage.

« Switching between identities affects behavior in many ways. In our study, we tracked which identity was active by focusing on language.

« We found that people not only change the way they write to impress their audience, but also change it based on the group identity that influenced her at the time.

« When we asked people in an experiment to think about themselves as parents, their language patterns reflected this. »

The study avoided words « content » (for example, a parent might Mentioning « childcare ») and focused on stylistic patterns, including the use of pronouns, « intellectual » words and words that express emotions.

Dr. Koschate-Reis commented on the possible applications of the new method as follows: « We are currently focused on mental health.

« It is the first method by which we can study how people outside the laboratory work on a large scale in a quantified way e access different group identities.

« For example, it gives us the opportunity to understand how people acquire new identities, for example when they become parents for the first time, and whether difficulties in invading that identity, with postnatal depression and anxiety

« Our method could help inform guidelines and interventions in this and many other areas. »

It has been found that group identities influence thoughts, emotions and behavior in many situations – work contexts from education to political activism.

Research is currently underway into how much control we have over switching between different identities – most of which are believed to be triggered by social context.

Dr. Koschate-Reis said it is possible to manipulate the impersonation-inducing clues by going to an identity-related location.

For example, students may find it easier to do in an « academic style » write when they are in the library than in the local cafe.

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Ref: https://phys.org

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