[PS-1.33] How social opinion influences syntactic processing - an investigation using Virtual Reality

Heyselaar, E. 1 , Hagoort, P. 1, 2 & Segaert, K. 3, 1

1 Neurobiology of Language Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
2 Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
3 School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom

Adapting your grammatical preferences to match that of your interlocutor, a phenomenon known as structural priming, can be influenced by the social opinion you have of your interlocutor. However, the direction and reliability of this effect is unclear as different studies have reported seemingly contrary results. When investigating something as abstract as social opinion, there are numerous differences between the studies that could be causing the differing results. We have operationalized social opinion as the ratings of favorability for a wide range of different avatars in a virtual reality study. This way we can accurately determine how the strength of the structural priming effect changes with differing social opinions. . Our results show an inverted U-shaped curve in passive structure repetition as a function of favorability: the participants showed the largest priming effects for the avatar with average favorability ratings, with a decrease when interacting with the least- or most-favorable avatars. This result suggests that the relationship between social opinion and priming magnitude may not be a linear one, contrary to what the literature has been assuming. Instead there is 'happy medium' which evokes the highest priming effect and on either side of this ideal is a decrease in priming.