Dispreferred responses when texting: Delaying that ‘no’ response

  • Rendle-Short J
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Abstract

Socially, people find it difficult to say ‘no’ to requests or invitations. In spoken interaction (face- to-face), we orient to this difficulty through the design of our responses. An agreement response (preferred) is characteristically said straightaway with minimal gap between request and response. A disagreement response (dispreferred) is characteristically delayed through silence and by prefacing the disagreement turn with tokens such as ‘well’, ‘uhm’ and ‘uh’ or with accounts as to why the recipient cannot accept the request or invitation. The question for this article concerns what occurs when requests or invitations are made via texting. The results from 329 texting interactions showed that if responses to a request or invitation were delayed by more than 1 minute, it was much more likely be a ‘no’ rather than a ‘yes’ response (p < 0.001). In other words, preferred responses were sent quickly; dispreferred responses were delayed. Understanding texting as social interaction is increasingly important as the range of communicative options continues to widen (e.g. Facebook, Short Message Service (SMS), Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), Instant Messaging (IM), email). This study shows preference organisation similarities between spoken interaction and texting with texters orienting to social norms concerning delayed responses. Further research is needed to understand in what contexts a person might choose one communicative medium over another.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Cell phones
  • conversation analysis
  • dispreferred responses
  • invitations
  • mobile phones
  • preference organisation
  • preferred responses
  • requests
  • texting
  • time delay

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