Evaluations of patronizing speech and three response styles in a non-service-providing context

Jake Harwood, Ellen Bouchard Ryan, Howard Giles, Shirley Tysoski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Earlier studies have documented observers' negative evaluations of patronizing speech directed towards elderly individuals. In addition, such studies have demonstrated that evaluations of individuals in a patronizing encounter are affected by the response style of the patronizee (e.g., assertive responses are associated with higher evaluations of competence). In the current study, undergraduates (N = 162) evaluated, among other things, the actors in a conversational vignette between a driver and a bystander occurring immediately following an auto accident; open-ended data also were collected. In a between-subjects design, the script was factorially varied in terms of the age of the driver (40 vs. 75 years), the presence of patronizing speech from the bystander (present vs. absent), and the driver's response style (neutral vs. assertive vs. non-relevant). As in previous research, the patronizing speaker was perceived as less respectful, nurturant, and competent than the non-patronizing speaker. An individual who responded assertively was viewed as more competent, but less benevolent and less respectful than a non-assertive responder. A non-relevant response was evaluated as less competent than the assertive or cooperative responses, but otherwise as very similar to the cooperative response. No effects for age emerged. As predicted from a "blame the victim" perspective, the driver receiving patronizing speech was judged as more likely to have caused the accident for age-related reasons. These reasons were also given more frequently in the older driver condition. Applied and theoretical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-195
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Applied Communication Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics


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