Utne Blogs > Science and Technology

Pronouns Are the Window to the Soul

by Danielle Magnuson


Tags: James W. Pennebaker, pronouns, language, social psychology, health, honesty, science and technology, New Scientist, Danielle Magnuson,

SecretsIf your writing is sprinkled liberally with first-person pronouns (I, me, myself), you’re probably a pretty honest person. If, on the other hand, you eschew what The Secret Life of Pronouns author James W. Pennebaker calls “I-words” and use lots of articles (the, a, an) and prepositions (up, with), you might be hiding something. That is Pennebaker’s conclusion after 20 years of language research from a psychosocial perspective, he reports in New Scientist:

Pennebaker began his pronoun studies in the 1980s after discovering that people who had kept secret a traumatic event in their life experienced more health problems than those who experienced similar trauma but didn’t cover it up. When he prompted patients to write about their secrets, he found that their health improved—and their pronoun use changed remarkably:

To read more about Pennebaker’s findings—and get a sense of where you stack up on the scales of honesty, health, and other personal characteristics—read his article in New Scientist.

Source: New Scientist 

Image by wheat_in_your_hair, licensed under Creative Commons.