Language of responsibility: the influence of linguistic abstraction on collective moral emotions

Michał Bilewicz*, Anna Stefaniak, Marta Witkowska, Karolina Hansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two experiments investigated the effects of linguistic abstractness on the experience of collective moral emotions. In Experiment 1 participants were presented with two scenarios about ingroup misbehavior, phrased using descriptive action verbs, interpretative action verbs, adjectives or nouns. The results show that participants experienced slightly more negative moral emotions with higher levels of linguistic abstractness. In Experiment 2 we also tested for the influence of national identification on the relationship between linguistic abstractness and emotional reactions. Additionally, we expanded the number of scenarios. Experiment 2 replicated the earlier pattern, but found larger differences between conditions. The strength of national identification did not moderate the observed effects. The results of this research are discussed within the context of the linguistic category model and psychology of collective moral emotions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology of Language and Communication
Issue number1
Early online date8 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2017


  • Linguistic abstractness
  • Linguistic category model
  • Collective emotions
  • National identification


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