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Shared talking styles herald new and lasting romance

In dating game, conversationally aligned players often pair up

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5:42pm, November 19, 2010

Listen to conversations.

A subtle, surprisingly mundane type of banter lies at the heart of romance. Love’s flames get fanned when a man and woman similarly employ words such as I, it, but and under in everyday conversations, a new study suggests.

Conversation partners’ related use of function words — such as pronouns, articles, conjunctions, prepositions and negations — augurs well for mutual romantic interest and stable relationships, says a team led by graduate student Molly Ireland and psychologist James Pennebaker, both of the University of Texas at Austin.

Unconscious verbal coordination of this sort, dubbed language-style matching by the researchers, signifies not how much two people like each other but how much each is paying attention to what the other says, Ireland and her colleagues propose in an upcoming Psychological Science.

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