What do you reveal about yourself in the way you use the smallest and seemingly most insignificant words you use every minute? That’s the focus of Dr. James Pennebaker‘s fascinating book and one of the most interesting psychology books of 2011: The Secret Life of Pronouns. If you’re fascinated by language then you’ll find this episode especially interesting.
When we’re trying to find out what people are thinking and feeling we usually focus on what Pennebaker refers to as “content words”, examples of which are nouns, verbs and adjectives. Do you say that you’re “happy” or “sad” or “angry”?
But what about the tiny words you use in between these content words? What do they reveal about you and others? What does the way you use function words:
- pronouns: I, me, you, he, she
- prepositions (to, for, of)
- negations: no, not, never
- articles: a, and, the
reveal about how you feel and how you think about the world?
Function words make up a small percent of our vocabulary, but we use them at a very, very high rate. How could you speak without them?
In this fascinating interview with Dr. Pennebaker he discusses some of what you’ll find in The Secret Life of Pronouns: the differences between men and women, our emotional states, indeed our very personalities are revealed in our use of these seemingly insignificant words.
James Pennebaker and The Secret Life of Pronouns
- James Pennebaker’s homepage
- The Online Research Consortium: lots of interesting resources here on personality tests and other matters psychological
- Have some fun – check out Dr. Pennebaker’s Analyze Words site and find out what you might be revealing about yourself in your tweets, emails and other writings!
- Dr. Pennebaker on YouTube: