Politeness in requests: A rejoinder to Kemper and Thissen

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Dale H. Schunk, Dean (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: In our study „Polite responses to polite requests?,1 we reported four experiments. In Experiment 1, people rated the politeness of 18 types of indirect requests, such as Could you tell me where Jordan Hall is? In Experiments 2, 3, and 4, other people rated the politeness of various responses to these requests, such as Yes, I can—it's down the street and Down the street. From the findings, we argued two things. First, politeness is roughly accounted for by a cost—benefit theory of politeness. Second, understanding such requests appears to require understanding their direct as well as their indirect meanings. In their reply, Kemper and Thissen (1981) partially redid Experiment 1 and found certain apparent discrepancies. (They did not redo Experiments 2, 3, and 4, which were a major source of support for both of our conclusions.) From these discrepancies, they concluded, "A cost benefit analysis cannot, in general, account for politeness of a wide range of requests". They did not address our second conclusion.

We suggest that Kemper and Thissen's conclusions are premature. The discrepancies they found are not replicated in six other investigations. When we tested their explanation for the discrepancies, it was decisively disconfirmed. More generally, the independent evidence for the cost—benefit theory of politeness is so extensive—quite apart from our own experiments—that Kemper and Thissen would need more than a partial failure to overturn it.

Additional Information

Cognition, 9, 311-315.
Language: English
Date: 1981
Rebuttal, Politeness, Social mores, Cognition