Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

Document Type



This dissertation explores a fundamental feature of all human interaction, behavioral coordination. Since early work on motor mimicry, scholars of human communication have invested tremendous energy to discover patterns of behavioral adaptation and the impact these patterns have on individual and relational outcomes. Outcomes such as individual health and well-being, as well as relationship satisfaction and divorce are all contingent on the ability to adapt and coordinate actions (Niederhoffer & Pennebaker, 2002; Stehl et al., 2008; Kulesza et al., 2013; Ireland et al., 2011). Several decades of research have advanced our understanding of specific characteristics of supportive messages and their relationship to important outcomes (for review see MacGeorge, Feng, & Burleson, 2011), and work by communication scientists has uncovered the importance of supportive relationships to health and well-being (Holt et al., 2010). This dissertation focuses on a set of language behaviors and how people repeat, paraphrase, and align language use during supportive conversations. Conversations between friends, strangers, and active listeners all engaged in a supportive conversation were analyzed. The analysis of transcripts of conversations between listeners and disclosers engaged in a 5-minute supportive interaction were conducted in two ways. First, two measures of linguistic coordination, Language Style Matching (LSM) (Ireland & Pennebaker, 2010) and Local Lexical Repetition (LLR) (Cannava & Bodie, 2015) were computed using textual analysis software. Results show that LSM was a significant variable in explaining supportive outcomes, whereas LLR failed to have predictive power. Second, stance analysis (Du Bois, 2007) was used to address supportive communication from a discourse analytic perspective. Results revealed that each relational group accomplished supportive conversations that varied on boundaries of coordination, investment, and affiliation. In general, this dissertation provides full or partial empirical support for the application and conceptualization of LSM and LLR. LSM is shown to be a positive predictor of supportive outcomes, whereas LLR is not. While providing three discourse analytic profiles of alignment, his dissertation also showed that dyads enact linguistic coordination and alignment in variety of ways depending on relationship type. Finally, this dissertation seeks to represent the repertoire of linguistic coordination used during a supportive interaction.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Bodie, Graham



Included in

Communication Commons