Synopses & Reviews
We spend our lives communicating. In the last fifty years, we've zoomed through radically different forms of communication, from typewriters to tablet computers, text messages to tweets. We generate more and more words with each passing day. Hiding in that deluge of language are amazing insights into who we are, how we think, and what we feel.
In The Secret Life of Pronouns, social psychologist and language expert James W. Pennebaker uses his groundbreaking research in computational linguistics—in essence, counting the frequency of words we use—to show that our language carries secrets about our feelings, our self-concept, and our social intelligence. Our most forgettable words, such as pronouns and prepositions, can be the most revealing: their patterns are as distinctive as fingerprints.
Using innovative analytic techniques, Pennebaker X-rays everything from Craigslist advertisements to the Federalist Papers—or your own writing, in quizzes you can take yourself—to yield unexpected insights. Who would have predicted that the high school student who uses too many verbs in her college admissions essay is likely to make lower grades in college? Or that a world leader's use of pronouns could reliably presage whether he led his country into war? You'll learn why it's bad when politicians use "we" instead of "I," what Lady Gaga and William Butler Yeats have in common, and how Ebenezer Scrooge's syntax hints at his self-deception and repressed emotion. Barack Obama, Sylvia Plath, and King Lear are among the figures who make cameo appearances in this sprightly, surprising tour of what our words are saying—whether we mean them to or not.
Social psychologist and language expert James W. Pennebaker draws on groundbreaking research in computational linguistics to explain what language choices reveal about feelings, self-concept, and social intelligence, in a lighthearted treatise that also explores the language personalities of famous individuals.
About the Author
James W. Pennebaker is a social psychologist whose research focuses on the relationship between natural language use, health, and social behavior. Throughout his career, he has received grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and other federal agencies for work in his field. His articles have been published in academic journals, and his books include Opening Up, Writing to Heal, and The Psychology of Physical Symptoms. He is currently the Centennial Liberal Arts Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers. Winner of the prestigious Audie Award for his recording of Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic by Gordon S. Wood, veteran actor Robert Fass is equally at home in a wide variety of styles, genres, characters, and dialects. A four-time Audie Award nominee with over sixty audiobooks to his credit, Robert has also earned multiple Earphones Awards, including for his narration of Francisco Goldman's novel Say Her Name, which was named one of the Best Audiobooks of 2011 by AudioFile magazine. Robert has given voice to modern and classic fiction writers alike, including Ray Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates, Isaac Asimov, Jeffrey Deaver, and John Steinbeck, plus nonfiction works in history, health, journalism, and business.