- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 9 hours and 37 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Tantor Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: March 12, 2012
- Language: English
- ASIN: B007JE3UJS
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us Audiobook – Unabridged
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Pennebaker summarizes his trauma research, noting that "people who benefit from writing express more optimism, acknowledge negative events, are constructing a meaningful story of their experience, and have the ability to change perspective as they write." Searching for reliable linguistic indicators of these processes identified writing style rather than more substantive content words. The resulting LIWC software works well regardless of a text's content.
Using both research findings and representative everyday examples, Pennebaker reviews what he has learned. Topics addressed include gender, status and social class, personality, leadership style, deception, interpersonal attraction, and group solidarity. The author not only presents conclusions from his own research, but links to supporting findings using non-linguistic methods. Specific findings include:
- LIWC correctly identifies an author's gender 72% of the time using writing style. This increases to 76% when content words are included. (Human guesses range from 55 to 65%.)
- On detecting depression: "Sadness generally causes people to focus inwardly. Pronouns tend to track people's focus of attention, and when in great emotional or physical pain, they tend to use I-words at high rates. Sadness, unlike most other emotions, is associated with looking back into the past and into the future. In other words, people tend to use past- and future-tense verbs more when they are sad or depressed compared to other strong emotions."
- "No system has ever been shown to reliably catch liars at rates higher than 65 percent. And even those with hit rates in that neighborhood (including me) have done so in highly controlled and artificial circumstances."
- "Linguistic style matching" across nine categories of function words occurs within the first 15 to 30 seconds of an attentive conversation. It is generally beyond conscious awareness. LSM profiles can predict a number of things better than chance, including whether a "speed dating" couple will pursue a further relationship after their initial four-minute discussion.
Pennebaker clearly wants to share, not just his insights, but the methods used to achieve them. Much of his research was done collaboratively, not just with students and fellow researchers, but with public figures, professionals in other fields, and anyone else with interesting documents. Readers are pointed to web sites that let them experiment with Pennebaker's techniques and a version of his LIWC software is available for more in-depth investigations. An appendix includes "A Handy Guide for Spotting and Interpreting Function Words in the Wild."
This book is an accessible summary of James Pennebaker's work with helpful citations of similar research by others. It serves as a guide to more technical discussions of text analysis through an extensive Bibliography and References section--and pointers to downloadable research reports from the author's web site. Interested readers might also enjoy Roderick Hart's Campaign Talk or one of the other related books the author mentions.
The writing is clear and lively. There are appealing little eruptions of playfulness. The story is put together from lots of research findings from the author and his buddies and probably some enemies. Here's a tiny sample of riveting facts you will learn:
If you ask people to fill out a survey, they use more "I" words (I, me, mine) if you put a mirror in front of them. 2. People believe that women talk more than men. Not true, the numbers say we all talk the same amount, but women use 12% more pronouns. 3. Shakespeare's characters, including the women, all talk like men. Woody Allen's all talk like women. 4. Writing about emotional topics improves the physical and emotional health of those who do it.
Even the notes at the end are worth reading. Only here do you learn that defendants who use "I" a lot are more likely to be innocent, but "me" is used more by the truly guilty, and get suggestions for further reading like "The Psychology of Secrets" and "Strangers in a Strange Lab" (argh, but yes I will buy it).
It must be thrilling to be a Pennebaker student or colleague. He is so engaging, he loves them so much.
This book contains ten chapters with an appendix, and that appendix is entitled "A Handy Guide for Spotting and Interpreting Function Words in the Wild" to which one can rip it off the book and use it on a daily basis (really, I do not like debasing any book, so I just photo-copy it and kept it on my person). The writing is very clear and coherent, not too shabby for a book of this nature, with many real-life examples. It's clearly a book about languages and how it reflects one's personalities. Specifically, the author did pointed out that languages do not change one's personality, but merely reflects it. By writing down everything, one can look back and see the "person" behind the words and understand one's own emotional states. It's a self-reflection and how one "projects" to others through their words.
Personally, it's an extremely interesting book about spoken and written languages and how they reveal things about ourselves. Previously, I didn't care about pronouns, verbs, nouns, or articles as they're all Greek to me since I am a hard-of-hearing, but now this book prompts me to research further on the subject of language and how I use my words for myself and towards others. There is even a website for this, which I'll endeavor onto the tests and learn more about myself as a writer and as a human being.