Effects of taboo conversation topics on impression formation and task performance evaluation

Hye Eun Lee, Catherine Kingsley Westerman, Emi Hashi, Kyle B. Heuett, Stephen A. Spates, Katie M. Reno, Erica W. Jenkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We examined how taboo conversation topics, such as being arrested, religion, and one’s body weight, affect impression formation and task performance. In an experiment with 109 women, each participant and a female research confederate, whom the participant believed to be another participant, had a conversation and were asked to complete a task. We manipulated the conversation topics and actual task performance of the confederate, and measured participants’ communication satisfaction; perception of the confederate’s social, physical, and task attractiveness; and task performance. The results show that when the confederate performed well and appropriate (vs. taboo) conversation topics were discussed, the participants formed a more positive impression of the confederate and evaluated her task performance more positively. Therefore, if social norms for appropriate conversation topics are not followed, individuals may be less satisfied with their interpersonal communication interaction with the person who has not observed the norms, and may evaluate the task performance of that other person more negatively.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8322
JournalSocial Behavior and Personality
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2018R1D1A1B07049693).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Scientific Journal Publishers Limited. All Rights Reserved.


  • Communication satisfaction
  • Conversation topics
  • Impression formation
  • Physical attractiveness
  • Self-disclosure
  • Social attractiveness
  • Taboo topics
  • Task attractiveness
  • Task performance


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