Pronouns as Judges of Character

Found this fascinating little gem on the NPR homepage today. It involves counting pronouns, and how we change or repetitions of them depending on the context. James Pennebaker, a psychologist and professor at UT—Austin, developed a computer program in the early 90s that parses “massive data sets and discern[s] patterns that no human could ever hope to match.”

They thought the program might be able to tell if people are lying, their class, and their gender based on language patterns alone.

The NPR article focused on transcripts recorded during a speed dating session.

“We can predict by analyzing their language, who will go on a date — who will match — at rates better than the people themselves,” he says.

Specifically, what Pennabaker found was that when the language style of two people matched, when they used pronouns, prepositions, articles and so forth in similar ways at similar rates, they were much more likely to end up on a date.

There’s lots more cool stuff in the article—including how to tell if the person you’re writing an email to is the one who holds the power in your relationship.

From “To Predict Dating Success, the Secret’s in the Pronouns” {npr}.