A RESEARCHER from Texas Tech University has found that people who use the same kind of “function words” are more likely to get together.

Molly Ireland, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Psychology specialising in human dialogue, and her associates analysed speed dating results and discovered a link between function-word similarity and the likelihood of second dates.

Examples of function words are personal pronouns such as ‘he,’ ‘she’ and ‘it,’ conjunctions such as ‘and,’ ‘but,’ ‘nor’ ‘and ‘or,’ and articles such as ‘a,’ ‘an’ and ‘the.’

“Romantic relationships have a huge influence on our health and well-being, and I think that conversation is a big part of what makes those relationships succeed or fail at every stage — from first dates to marriages,’ Ireland said.

Ireland and fellow researchers Rich Slatcher of Wayne State University and James Pennebaker and Paul Eastwick of University of Texas at Austin reviewed 40 heterosexual speed dates and used special computers to analyse participants’ language.

In addition to discovering a connection between similar function words and love matches, Ireland and her team also found language similarity to be a an “even better predictor of relationship stability” than variables, including perceived similarity and relationship quality, and how many words were spoken throughout each conversation.

“People… aren’t very good at predicting ahead of time what they’ll find attractive on a date,” Ireland noted.

“So in a way, language predicts what people want in a partner better than they do themselves.”

Ireland also remarked that conversation content may not be as important as language and language style.

She and her team believe language-style matching indicates that people are focusing on their date/conversation partner rather than on themselves or their surroundings.

This research builds on previous studies by Ireland, including one measuring behaviour-matching with language-style matching, or how people benefit when “matching each other’s language use or non-verbal behaviour” during a conversation.

Ireland has also looked at language-style matching as a predictor of “relationship initiation and stability” and found, much like her current research, that “interpersonal similarity plays an important role in the development of romantic relationships”.

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