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Local and Global Status Insecurities Independently Predict Compensatory Jargon Use

When are people in negotiations most likely to use technical terminology and industry jargon? We propose that low status, both global (i.e., between group) and local (i.e., within group), increases jargon use in conspicuous circumstances. We test this theory in an academic context, specifically predicting that lower-status academics will conspicuously use jargon to signal higher status. We tested this hypothesis using 7 years of poster titles from the largest annual personality and social psychology conference. Analyses revealed that both global and local status concerns independently predicted jargon use. For global status, the status of the authors’ universities predicted jargon use; authors from lower-status schools used more jargon in their poster titles. For local status, first authors with a co-author from a higher-status university included more jargon in their titles. These results demonstrate jargon, which is a status signal, is often used to compensate for status concerns.

Zachariah Brown
Hong Kong University of Science & Technology
Hong Kong

Eric Anicich
USC Marshall - University of Southern California
United States

Adam Galinsky
Columbia Business School
United States


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