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PhD ceremony Ms. N. Koudenburg: Conversational flow. The emergence and regulation of solidarity through social interaction

When:Th 20-02-2014 at 12:45
Where:Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

PhD ceremony: Ms. N. Koudenburg

Dissertation: Conversational flow. The emergence and regulation of solidarity through social interaction

Promotor(s): prof. T.T. Postmes, prof. E.H. Gordijn

Faculty: Behavioural and Social Sciences

Social interactions shape social relations. When engaged in conversation with friends or strangers, with individuals or groups, we often pay close attention to what is being said. But independent of content, the form of a conversation has a strong influence too, particularly for feelings of ‘we-ness’ and solidarity. In this thesis, we show that seemingly trivial aspects of a conversation act as signals for the quality of social relations and for levels of agreement among us. In our studies, we show that smoothly flowing conversations generate a sense of belonging and social validation; People have the idea that they are on the same wavelength. However, we also find that a brief 4-second silence is enough to disrupt this flow and elicit feelings of rejection, thereby threatening people’s sense of belonging and validation. Moreover, we find that as a result of this threat, people will try to restore their relation with the group: When it remains silent after people have expressed their opinion in a group discussion, those who are highly motivated to belong adjust their opinion to the group norm. Conversely, those less motivated to belong to the group are likely to respond to a silence by distancing themselves from the group stance. This research thus shows the impact of communication form on the formation of relationships. This has implications for instance for online communication, in which delays in the connection often occur. Besides just being annoying, we find that a 1s delay “on the line” disrupts conversational flow and consequently obstructs the building of strong social relationships.

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