Background and Files from "Organizational Credibility"

This paper stems from my thesis and is therefore part of a larger project. This larger project examined Language Expectancy Theory (LET; Burgoon, 1990; Burgoon, Denning, & Roberts, 2002; Burgoon, Jones, & Stewart, 1975; Burgoon & Miller, 1985), which is a message-centered theory of persuasion that explains why certain linguistic formats in persuasive messages promote or inhibit persuasion. LET focuses on expectations for language use and how violations of these expectations impact persuasive outcomes.

LET proposes the specific groups of individuals, such as males and females, are persuasive if they adhere to language use expectations. The theory states that males are most persuasive using intense language, and females are most persuasive using neutral language. I explored this LET-based prediction in my thesis, using a 4 (topic) by 4 (author condition) by 2 (language condition) design.

The three content topics were about the U.S. Farm Bill and three food-related issues: obesity, local food, and international food aid. The two language conditions were intense language or neutral language. The original experiment also included a fourth topic, which was an attention-control topic on student debt. This attention-control topic was, however, significantly different in important ways (e.g., involvement with the topic) and was therefore not used in the analyses.

The four author conditions were a single-author female, a single-author male, two authors (female first, male second), and two authors (male first, female second). In this paper on organizational credibility, we collapsed across all author conditions, and therefore this information was not included in the methods section of this article.

For reproducibility, I provide codebook and the stimuli messages used in this paper. An additional document is provided that shows the author statements that were included in the messages that were run in the full experiment.


Stimuli Messages:

Note: The colored words in the messages indicate the differences in the intense and neutral wording. In the stimuli presented to participants, all of the text was in black.

I also created an intense language word bank, to keep the messages across topic as similar as possible: Intense Language Word Bank

The author names in the full project varied across topic, as I kept the author names from the original messages (the original messages were found online through various public health advocacy organizations). The credentials for each author were held constant across all stimuli messages (to hold high source credibility constant). The author names and credential statements for each stimuli message are available in this document: Author Names and Credentials

Please email me if you have ANY questions and/or if you are interested in seeing the syntax and data file for this article!


Burgoon, M. (1990). Social influence. In H. Giles & P. Robinson (Eds.), Handbook of language and social psychology (pp. 51-72). London: Wiley.

Burgoon, M., Denning, V. P., & Roberts, L. (2002). Language expectancy theory. In J. P. Dillard & M. Pfau (Eds.), The persuasion handbook: Developments in theory and practice (pp. 117-136). London: Sage.

Burgoon, M., Jones, S. B., & Stewart, D. (1975). Toward a message-centered theory of persuasion: Three empirical investigations of language intensity. Human Communication Research, 1(3), 240-256.

Burgoon, M., & Miller, G. R. (1985). An expectancy interpretation of language and persuasion. In H. Giles & R. St. Clair (Eds.), Recent advances in language, communication and social psychology (pp. 199-229). London: Lawrence Erlbaum.