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Conspicuous or Communicative? Causes and Consequences of Jargon Use
The current investigation studies the causes and consequences of jargon use. We propose that jargon has both communication functions around efficiency and impression management functions around status. We first explore how people interpret a target’s motivation to use jargon according to these functions. We found that people see the self, high-status individuals, and ingroup members as using jargon more for communication purposes relative to status purposes. Despite denying a status motive, survey and archival data reveal that jargon is associated with high-status professions. Given this status association, analyses of social-scientific posters show that low-status group members use higher levels of jargon to signal higher status. Despite this motivated use of jargon, experimental evidence shows that jargon use reduces a speaker’s status attainment by decreasing audience understanding. These findings suggest jargon has complex relationships with communicating effectively and achieving status. The path to status may not be paved with circumlocutions.