Behavioral consequences of second-person pronouns in written communications between authors and reviewers of scientific papers

Zhuanlan SUN, C. Clark CAO, Sheng LIU, Yiwei LI*, Chao MA*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Pronoun usage’s psychological underpinning and behavioral consequence have fascinated researchers, with much research attention paid to second-person pronouns like “you,” “your,” and “yours.” While these pronouns’ effects are understood in many contexts, their role in bilateral, dynamic conversations (especially those outside of close relationships) remains less explored. This research attempts to bridge this gap by examining 25,679 instances of peer review correspondence with Nature Communications using the difference-in-differences method. Here we show that authors addressing reviewers using second-person pronouns receive fewer questions, shorter responses, and more positive feedback. Further analyses suggest that this shift in the review process occurs because “you” (vs. non-“you”) usage creates a more personal and engaging conversation. Employing the peer review process of scientific papers as a backdrop, this research reveals the behavioral and psychological effects that second-person pronouns have in interactive written communications.
Original languageEnglish
Article number152
JournalNature Communications
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

These authors contributed equally: Zhuanlan Sun, C. Clark Cao, Sheng Liu.
Publisher Copyright: © 2024, The Author(s).

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