Abstract language signals power, but also lack of action orientation

Mauricio Palmeira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Powerful people tend to think more abstractly, and those who use abstract speech are perceived as more powerful. Given that appearing powerful may lead to actual power, those interested in achieving powerful positions may benefit from using abstract speech. In the current research, we propose that concrete speech may also have comparable benefits. Specifically, we argue that while abstract thinking is required to set big goals and make high level plans, concrete thinking is required to follow plans and achieve goals. Thus, whereas abstract speech signals the ability to think at a high level, concrete speech signals action orientation. Across four experiments, we find strong evidence for a link between concrete thinking and perceptions of action orientation. Importantly, we find that both power and action orientation are important predictors of preferences for leadership positions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59 - 63
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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