Covering a politically incorrect leader? Berkeley Haas Asst. Prof. Juliana Schroeder and PhD candidate Michael Rosenblum are available to offer insights on the psychology of political incorrectness.

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Study shows the social benefits of political incorrectness | Berkeley Haas

Politically incorrect speech can be controversial and divisive—so why are so many politicians willing to go there? Perhaps because being un-PC is such a powerful way to show authenticity.

The researchers found that replacing even a single politically correct word or phrase with a politically incorrect one—”illegal” versus “undocumented” immigrants, for example—makes people view a speaker as more authentic and less likely to be swayed by others.

“The cost of political incorrectness is that the speaker seems less warm, but they also appear less strategic and more ‘real,'” says Asst. Prof. Juliana Schroeder, co-author of the paper. “The result may be that people may feel less hesitant in following politically incorrect leaders because they appear more committed to their beliefs.”

The paper, co-written by lead author Michael Rosenblum, a Berkeley Haas PhD student, and Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School, is forthcoming in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Among the findings from their nine experiments with almost 5,000 participants :

  • Most people across the political spectrum view politically incorrect statements as more authentic than the same view expressed in politically correct language.
  • Although politically correct speech is more often defended by liberals and derided by conservatives, there’s nothing inherently partisan about the concept. Conservatives are just as likely to be offended by politically incorrect speech when it’s used to describe groups they care about, such as evangelicals or poor whites.
  • People believe they can predict politically incorrect speakers’ other opinions, believing in their conviction.
  • Using PC speech creates the illusion that the speaker is susceptible to influence.

To arrange an interview with our experts, please contact:

Laura Counts, Media Relations

[email protected]