Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How you speak and write provides clues to your identity and character

The way we write and speak can reveal a great deal about our identity and character. Here is a sampling of the variables that can be detected in our use of style-related words such as pronouns and articles.
  • Sex. In general, women tend to use more pronouns and references to other people; men are more likely to use articles, prepositions, and big words.
  • Age. As people get older, they tend to refer to themselves less, use more positive emotion and fewer negative emotion words. Older people also use more future tense and fewer past tense verbs.
  • Social class. The higher the social class, the less likely one uses 1st person singular pronouns and the less one uses emotion words.
  • Honesty. When people tell the truth, they are more like to use 1st person singular pronouns. They also use more exclusive words like except, but, without, excluding. Words such as this indicate that a person is making a distinction between what they did do and what they didn’t do. Liars have a problem with such complex ideas.
  • Dominance in a conversation. Analyze the relative use of the word “I” between two speakers in an interaction. Usually, the higher status speaker will use fewer “I” words.
  • Social bonding after a trauma. In the days and weeks after a cultural upheaval, people become more self-less (less use of “I”) and more oriented towards others (increased use of “we”).
  • Depression and suicide-proneness. Public figures speaking in press conferenecs and published poets in their poetry use more 1st person singular when they are depressed or prone to suicide.
  • Testosterone levels. In two case studies, it was found that when people’s testosterone levels increased rapidly, they dropped in their use of references to other people.

Adapted from work by James Pennebaker at the University of Texas. http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/Faculty/Pennebaker/Home2000/Words.html

No comments:

Post a Comment