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The Power of Language in Adjudication and Mediation: Institutional Contexts as Predictors of Social Evaluation

Calvin Morrill and Peter C. Facciola
Law & Social Inquiry
Vol. 17, No. 2 (Spring, 1992), pp. 191-212
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Bar Foundation
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/828567
Page Count: 22
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Power of Language in Adjudication and Mediation: Institutional Contexts as Predictors of Social Evaluation
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Abstract

The language used by witnesses and litigants can powerfully influence evaluations by legal decision makers of disputant credibility and blame. Previous experimental research has addressed this claim in many studies of undergraduates and law students. It is not known whether this generalization applies to sitting judges or whether it extends to other institutional contexts in which dispute settlement occurs, such as mediation centers. In this article we present findings from three experiments conducted with undergraduates, sitting judges, and practicing mediators. Speech style (powerful, powerless) and discourse (rule, relational) were manipulated in a 2×2 repeated measures design in each subject pool. The findings suggest that students' and judges' evaluations of disputant credibility, social characteristics, and blame are affected by speech style, while mediators' evaluations of the same are affected by particular interactions of speech style and discourse only. These findings are interpreted as a function of the prescriptive and behavioral language norms to which students, judges, and mediators are routinely exposed in their institutional contexts. Implications for future law and language research are also discussed.

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