Language Style Matching, Engagement, and Impasse in Negotiations

Molly E. Ireland, Marlone D. Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Humans and animals alike are known to mirror the behavior of both allies and opponents. However, existing models of behavior matching focus primarily on its prosocial functions. The current study explores whether both prosocial and adversarial sides of behavior matching can be found at different stages of an egoistic negotiation. In negotiations conducted over instant messenger, 64 dyads attempted to reach an agreement on four issues within 20 minutes while focusing solely on personal gain. We measured behavior matching with the language style matching (LSM) metric, which quantifies function word (e.g., pronouns, articles) similarity between partners. Although pairs with higher LSM throughout negotiations were more socially engaged, they were also less focused on the task and more likely to reach an impasse during the negotiation. Furthermore, early but not late style matching predicted more positive, socially attuned interactions. Implications for negotiation and mimicry research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalNegotiation and Conflict Management Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Decision making
  • Engagement
  • Language style matching
  • Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count
  • Negotiation


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