Yep, that's why "Bob" from accounting is doing so much better than you. Keep telling yourself that.
Language is amazing. By saying the right thing to the right person at the right time, you can basically get whatever you want -- money, power, sex, tacos. Tell us that isn't the best kind of magic. But before you do, why don't you read about some of the other things that language can do. Like how it totally can control our minds in some incredibly profound and terrifying ways. For example...
In a perfect world, it shouldn't matter what your name is; only the content of your character. Also, college education should be free, puppies should live forever, and chocolate milk should help you lose weight. But down here in the real "college is expensive and chocolate makes you fat" world (fuck you, puppies do live forever), people with easier-to-pronounce names are more likely to have a lot of friends and be successful.
Let's say there are two men: a Mr. Smith and a Mr. Colquhoun. Which one of them do you like more? You may not think that you have an answer to that, but your brain has already chosen Mr. Smith. Why? It's called "fluency," and the idea is that our brains like information that's easier to process.
Lazy, inattentive, and vaguely racist. Yup, that's the human brain we know.
You can see it in business. Studies have shown that companies with simpler names trade better on the stock market than those with more complex ones, even when stripped of all other variables. You can see it in politics, too. At the University of Melbourne, participants were asked to vote for a candidate, knowing only their name and a few of their political positions. The results showed that 40 percent of these fictional politicians' likability came down to how easy it was to pronounce their names.
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Spoiler: It's not just an Aussie thing.
Yep, that's why "Bob" from accounting is doing so much better than you. Keep telling yourself that.
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You can learn plenty about people simply by listening to their speech patterns. For example, if they use a lot of complicated words incorrectly, they might be compensating for something. Which is quite endothermic, if you ask us. If someone you're talking to uses "I" a lot, they might be intimidated by you. So when you're talking to your hard-ass boss, your "I"s will probably be at an all-time high, but when you're talking to someone you perceive to be beneath you, like your dog or Bob from accounting, there'll be nary an "I" in sight.
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Aside from "Irritating" and "Idiot," of course.
In a study conducted by the University of Texas, researchers divided participants into groups, and randomly assigned one person to be the leader of each one. They then analyzed their conversations, and found that the leaders said "I" in 4.5 percent of their words, while the rest used it 5.6 percent of the time. In another study, pairs of students were made to complete a task together, with their interactions taking place entirely online. Afterwards, the researchers asked the students which of the pair they thought had more power and status, and they found that the majority of people pointed to those who used "I" the least.
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The conclusion should be obvious. If you want to excel, start speaking exclusively in the third person.
So why does this happen? Well, researchers think that when we're talking to a superior, we tend to become self-reflective and more insecure because the other person reminds us exactly of who we are not, and that intimidates the hell out of us. But speaking with somebody beneath our social status makes us feel like a king, and so we use the royal "we." All right, we made that "king" bit up, but it sounded legit, right?
It's no surprise that accents change how intelligent someone sounds. Sir Ian McKellen could recite Nicki Minaj lyrics and still sound like Lord Tennyson. Well, it might interest you to know that UK residents feel the same way. In a 2013 poll conducted for ITV, the British public voted the "Received Pronunciation / Queen's English / James Bond Villain" accent as the most "intelligent" and "trustworthy" of all the accents.
Conversely, the accent heard in Liverpool (birthplace of the Beatles) was voted as the least friendly and least intelligent. These aren't random facts that don't apply to the real world, either -- 28 percent of Britons felt that they have been discriminated against because of the way they talk. Which was actually optimistic of them, as 80 percent of British employers who were polled straight-up admitted to "making discriminating decisions based on regional accents."
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"Yeah, but a Cockney accent makes everyone sound stupid!"
-- Someone who's never heard Michael Caine speak
Some of you might be wondering how a standard American accent stacks up against the British ones, and unfortunately, a separate study has concluded that 'Merican falls behind Received Pronunciation in terms of perceived intelligence and trustworthiness. The American accent also ranks dead last in terms of sexiness compared to British, Latin-American, or even Middle-Eastern accents. That last one, by the way, was also voted the most attractive based on a survey of over 120 students at Brigham Young University. And when a bunch of Mormons admit to being most attracted to the accent from the birthplace of Islam, you know they must be telling the truth.
The frequency with which we use certain words, how we pause, and the way we emphasize parts of a sentence are all specific to us. It's a little miracle of the human brain ... so of course we try to take advantage of it to bone each other. When you find someone whom you like, the first thing your brain does is copy their linguistic mannerisms in the hope that they'll see you as a kindred spirit and develop a sudden hatred for their own underwear.
"If you use your mouth like them earlier, you can use your mouth on them later." -- Your brain
It's mostly down to common little words -- "the," "a," "be," "anything," "that," "will," "him," etc. Despite not consciously hearing these "function words," our brains still pick up on them, and when we meet that special someone, we unknowingly shift our patterns of usage to match theirs. To prove this, researchers set up a speed dating event and recorded the conversations of every pair. They found that if the pair's speech patterns matched, they were four times more likely to continue contact after the initial meeting.
In another study, scientists analyzed the conversations of potential couples who had been chatting online for ten days, and found that 80 percent of those whose writing styles matched each other were likely to still be dating in three months, even when factoring in their personality differences. In other words, we all kinda want to go and fuck ourselves.
Metaphors help us make abstract things easier to understand by appealing to our emotions. Plus, they're handy on college papers. Oh, and they also help us read each other's minds.
In a study from the University of Ontario, researchers had participants read simple metaphorical sentences, like "the moon is a balloon," and then showed them pictures of different sets of eyes, asking the test subjects what emotions those eyes were feeling. Results showed that those who had recently been exposed to the deluge of metaphors were more accurate in guessing the emotional state of the eyes.
Especially if the subject had also heard that "The moon is a balloon" bullshit,
at which point we imagine that "Annoyed" and "Irate" were pretty rock-solid guesses.
That's because when we use metaphors, we unknowingly become more empathetic by concentrating more on our emotions. The effect is more powerful than you might think. Scientists discovered that our brains respond to metaphors the same way they respond to us physically touching different textures. Any time someone speaks to us with metaphors, it's like we hold their minds in our hands, and that helps us understand their emotions better. So the next time somebody uses a metaphor on you, call the police. That's a brain-grope, and you don't have to take it.
Have you ever noticed that whenever some dipwad tries to sound smart, they always do it by shitting all over stuff? "Oh, you liked The Avengers? Yeeeeah, I used to be like you when I was a little kid. But then I grew up and got into real comic books."
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Maybe this isn't the best evidence to trot out as proof of how much you've grown up.
There's a reason those people rely on negativity so much. We have a personal bias towards negativity. That is, we believe that the more negative a person is, the smarter they are -- at least, according to researchers at Central Michigan University.
In an experiment, scientists had students watch a movie, and then asked them to write a review of it, with some of the students being asked to appear "warm," while others were asked to appear "intelligent." Predictably, those who were trying to sound smart pointed out more flaws in the movie than everyone else. In another study at Harvard Business School, students were made to read two reviews, and they rated the more critical one as "more competent" and "definitely smarter" than the nicer review.
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Which led to a second discovery: the inverse relationship between "intelligence" and being invited to the movies.
Some scientists think that this whole negativity/intelligence correlation could be an evolutionary thing, as focusing on the bad stuff could give you a greater chance of survival. You refuse to join Grog's hunting party after you've seen the shoddy craftsmanship of his tiger-killing spear, so you're more likely to survive the day. But that was caveman times. Being a cynical asshole now just means you're less likely to make friends, no matter how cool your fedora looks.
Language is extremely powerful. See what we mean in 5 Insane Ways Words Can Control Your Mind and 5 Surprising Ways Your Language Affects How You Think.
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