While pronouns may have lost out in the world of School House Rock (can you even compare “Conjunction Junction” or “Unpack Your Adjectives” to the pronoun song?), psychologist James Pennebaker believes it might be possible to predict future romances and analyze power dynamics based on these tiny words.
Pennebaker and his team recorded and transcribed hundreds of speed dating conversations. After they analyzed words used during the conversations and information about how the speed daters thought their dates went, Pennebaker found that people subconsciously mimic the way others speak when we’re into them.
“The more similar [they were] across all of these function words, the higher the probability that [they] would go on a date in a speed dating context,” Pennebaker says. “And this is even cooler: We can even look at … a young dating couple… [and] the more similar [they] are … using this language style matching metric, the more likely [they] will still be dating three months from now.”
Pennebaker also studies pronouns and power dynamics and thinks that it’s possible to tell who holds the power in any situation based on who uses the pronoun “I” more often.
You’d think it would be the person who thinks he’s [or she's] more important, but it turns out it’s actually the person who feels more insecure. When we’re fixated on how we’re coming across, our language reflects our self-consciousness.
However, Pennebaker doesn’t think that people can use this research to change themselves. As he puts it, “The words reflect who we are more than drive who we are.”
P.S. For some interesting examples, check out the full article from Jezebel. Also check out Pennebaker’s website for tools you can use to analyze your tweets or analyze how two people are paying attention to each other in a conversation.
P.P.S. For those of you who also couldn’t even remember how School House Rock taught us about pronouns, here’s a link to memory lane.