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Behav Res Methods. 2016 Sep;48(3):922-35. doi: 10.3758/s13428-016-0775-4.

Formality of the Chinese collective leadership.

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Department of Educational Psychology, Rutgers University, Room 354A 10 Seminary Place, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 08901-1281, USA.
Department of Psychology and Institute for Intelligent Systems, University of Memphis, Suite 403C 365 Innovation Drive, Memphis, 38152-3115, Tennessee, USA.


We investigated the linguistic patterns in the discourse of four generations of the collective leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) from 1921 to 2012. The texts of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao were analyzed using computational linguistic techniques (a Chinese formality score) to explore the persuasive linguistic features of the leaders in the contexts of power phase, the nation's education level, power duration, and age. The study was guided by the elaboration likelihood model of persuasion, which includes a central route (represented by formal discourse) versus a peripheral route (represented by informal discourse) to persuasion. The results revealed that these leaders adopted the formal, central route more when they were in power than before they came into power. The nation's education level was a significant factor in the leaders' adoption of the persuasion strategy. The leaders' formality also decreased with their increasing age and in-power times. However, the predictability of these factors for formality had subtle differences among the different types of leaders. These results enhance our understanding of the Chinese collective leadership and the role of formality in politically persuasive messages.


Education level; Formality; Persuasion; Political discourse; Power

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