If you are covering Chapter 10 (because the following article's first three studies are simple experiments) or Chapter 12 (because the following article's first two studies are analyzed as 2 [manipulation] X 2 [gender] designs), you may want to assign

Fitzsimons, G.M., & Kay, A. C. (2004). Language and interpersonal cognition: Causal effects of variations in pronoun usage on perceptions of closeness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 547-557.


Why Assign This Article?


Despite the article’s lengthy title, the write-ups of the individual experiments are brief: the write-ups for Experiments 1 and 2 are each about one page long; the write-up for Experiment 3is about two pages long. Furthermore, the short write-ups of the individual studies are self-contained. Thus, you can have students read only the experiment(s) you want them to read without having them read the introduction(the hardest part of the article for students to read). To make the article even easier for students to read, we have provided links to handouts at the bottom of this web page. Finally, note that the article is easy for your students to obtain (students who buy the book can get it by using the Infotrac® subscription that comes with Research design explained).

Article Summary

The authors suggest that, when speakers talk about their own interpersonal relationships, what seem to be unintentional and unimportant word choices (e.g., saying “my friend and I” versus saying “we”) may affect (a) how others perceive the quality of the speakers’ relationships and (b) how speakers themselves perceive those relationships. Study 1 found that participants reading a paragraph in which a writer used the pronoun “we” to describe the writer’s friendship with Valerie rated the writer’s relationship with Valerie as closer than participants reading a similar paragraph in which the writer used the pronoun “Valerie and I” to describe the friendship. The second study had students describe their relationship with their closest same-sex friend using five sentences that began with either (a)“we” or (b) “(insert friend’s name) and I.” Participants made to describe their friendship using “we” rated their best same-sex friendship as closer than participants who were in the “Friend’s name and I” condition. Study 3 extended Study 2 by replicating the effect by manipulating an actual interpersonal interaction. Participants thought that they and another participant (actually a confederate)were working on a task. The task required participants to imagine that their plane crashed  in the middle of a desert, that they were the only two survivors, that they had a long perilous journey ahead of them, and that they had to choose which five items from the plane to bring on their journey. Half of the participants listed and justified their choices by writing “The other passenger and I should bring____  because the other passenger rand I ______”; the other half listed and justified their choices by writing “We should bring ____ because we _____.” Then, the participant went to another room and read the list aloud. After the participant returned ,the confederate went into another room and read her list aloud (during this time, the confederate learned what items the participant had chosen). When the confederate returned to the room, the experiment told the participant and confederate to share their lists and come to a consensus. The confederate then read her list (rigged to have four items that were the same as the participant and one that was different). During the discussion, the confederate changed her list so that it contained the same five items as the participant’s original list. After this short discussion, participants finished participants had to write down the agreed upon list by either finishing sentences that began, “We have decided to bring”(we condition) or finishing sentences that began, “The other passenger and I have decided”  (she and I condition). Then, participants  went to another room to read these sentences aloud to the experimenter. Finally, participants completed the dependent measures: the Subjective Closeness Inventory and the IOS scale. As predicted, relative to participants in the she and I condition, participants in the we condition (a) perceived the interaction with the confederate as closer and (b) perceived a potential future relationship with the confederate as more likely to become close.



Student Handout for Experiment 1


Student Handout for Experiment 2


Student Handout for Experiment 3


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