Benjamin Whorf proposed a relationship between habitual language use and automatic behavior. His work has since led to a great deal of linguistic research, but the field thus far has neglected to explore the relationship between individual lexical items and their connotational effects. This work explores the relationship between exposure to altruism-related words and the subsequent lexical accessibility of aggressive words, then applies that research to real-life situations by exploring the consumer entitlement paradigm with the manipulation of slogans. I found that in a response time study, priming with altruistic items facilitated the lexical accessibility of aggressive items; however, in an untimed ambiguous word completion task, exposure to an altruistic prime decreased the number of aggressive responses. This may suggest an additional level of processing beyond that of phonological, grammatical, and prosodic elements, in which cultural and usage-based connotation affects the output as well. Finally, tests of a customer service scenario found that slogan manipulation did result in several significant effects, which effects were most commonly found in subjects outside the 18-25 age range, and male subjects. An entitled slogan generally resulted in more negative attitudes towards a hypothetical store associate in a potentially-antagonistic customer service encounter and a higher reported likelihood of further action on the matter, while an altruistic slogan generally resulted in the opposite. However, these results were highly dependent on question framing. Implications for linguistics, psychology, and practical applications are discussed.



College and Department

Humanities; Linguistics and English Language



Date Submitted


Document Type





psycholinguistics, slogans, aggression, altruism, marketing

Included in

Linguistics Commons