Can word choice unconsciously reveal your state of mind?
May 26, 2010 6:22 AM Subscribe
Outside of Freudian slips, is there any scientific evidence that people's word choices unconsciously reveal states of mind that they are trying to conceal?
posted by tel3path to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
We all know what Freudian slips are: a guy takes his date to dinner in a hotel restaurant, and he means to ask for "a table for tonight", but instead he accidentally asks for "a bed for tonight", thereby revealing the goal he wished to conceal.
That's not what I'm talking about. What I am talking about is vocabulary choice as a "tell" or a form of leakage.
For example, say I am angry with my friend Ann, and this is at the back of my mind while I am at work having a meeting with Betty with whom I am not angry. I say to Betty, "I like the look of this software but I haven't used it in anger yet," - would that be coincidental or would my anger have influenced me to use the phrase "in anger" instead of some other phrase?
For another example, say I missed lunch because I was delayed en route to a job interview. Does this increase the likelihood that I'll express my eagerness by telling the interviewer that I'm "hungry for experience" in this particular field?
A very sad example: the mother of a decades-missing woman claimed she had come to terms with not finding a body, but regarding other aspects of the investigation, spoke of "digging through the files" and "uncovering evidence" and so on. Perhaps she wasn't longing to find a body, but ISTM her choice of words suggested that that was what was on her mind at that point even though she was ostensibly talking about something else.
Can anyone point me to studies that provide evidence for or against this?