Article

What a Difference a Pronoun Makes: I/We Versus You/Me and Worried Couples' Perceptions of Their Interaction Quality

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Abstract

Purpose: We investigate the role of pronoun use in people’s perceptions of relationship interaction quality, especially when partners experience worry. Method: Couples (N = 115) rated their anxiety and interaction quality and participated in a 15-minute problem-solving discussion. Results: Me-focus by actors and You-focus by actors and partners reliably correlated with perceived interaction quality. As well, a person’s own, but not his or her partner’s, worry moderated the association between pronoun use and perceived interaction quality. Pronoun use (actor You- and partner Me-focus) and perceived interaction quality were especially strongly associated for people with relatively lower levels of worry. A principal component analyses uncovered two underlying factors for pronouns: self-focus and other-focus. Actor-partner analyses using underlying factors corroborated the results for individual pronouns. Discussion: These results support previous findings that specific pronouns are related to worse outcomes, and this association may be a function of how worried partners are. Worry may contribute to interpersonal difficulties by overriding otherwise salient interpersonal cues.

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... They may also conceptualize each other's external stress as "our" stress, an issue that they must work together in order to combat. Consistent with positive dyadic coping, it has been found that greater use of plural, personal pronouns (i.e., we-talk) is positively associated with relationship satisfaction (Borelli et al., 2013) and communication quality (Biesen et al., 2015). ...
... There is evidence suggesting that the use of singular, first-person pronouns (i.e., I-talk) is negatively correlated with relationship quality (Slatcher et al., 2008;Rentscher et al., 2013). Further, the use of singular secondperson pronouns (i.e., you-talk) negatively predicts interaction quality in couples (Biesen et al., 2015). Partners' use of youtalk may communicate distance between partners, and further, indicate blame and criticism (e.g., "You never do the dishes"). ...
... For instance, in attempting to cope with one's partner, one may use language like, "Have you tried doing this?" or "You must be feeling so stressed." You-talk can at times communicate blame and criticism (Biesen et al., 2015) and other times be indicative of support provision, and each use of "you" could have different effects on interaction quality. Thus, the absence of significant associations between the partner's you-talk and the actor's interaction quality may be explained by this flexible use of second-person pronouns. ...
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Stress in romantic relationships is an all-too-common phenomenon that has detrimental effects on relationship well-being. Specifically, stress can lead to negative interactions between partners and ultimately decrease relationship functioning. The systemic-transactional model of dyadic coping posits that by effectively communicating stress and coping with one another, couples can mitigate the deleterious effects of stress. Specifically, partners can engage in positive dyadic coping by helping each other cope with his/her respective stress, which may foster couples’ sense of “we-ness,” strengthen their emotional connection, and facilitate their understanding of each other’s stressful experiences. However, these associations have not yet been examined during partners’ interactions about stress. When assessing dyadic coping, a particular aspect of interest is partners’ language use (i.e., pronouns, emotion words, cognition words) as it may reflect the types of support they communicate to one another. Using real-time interaction data from 41 heterosexual couples, this study examined how couples’ stress and coping processes affect perceived interaction quality following discussions of stress. Specifically, language use (i.e., pronouns, emotion words, cognition words) was assessed as mediator in the association between observed stress communication and perceived interaction quality. Overall, results supported our hypotheses; when one partner communicated stress, the other partner responded with language use indicative of different types of dyadic coping (i.e., more you-talk and use of emotion words, less we-talk, I-talk, and use of cognition words), which were in turn associated with interaction quality in mixed directions. Implications of these findings for romantic couples are discussed.
... Greater use of self and other referencing single pronouns (e.g., "I" and "you" words are reported to be predictive of less marital satisfaction in couples whereas higher usage of "we" words and plural pronouns has been associated with greater couple satisfaction and improved couple health behavior; Sillars, Shellen, McIntosh, & Momegranate, 1997). Further, couples who used more "you" words engaged in more negative discourse while the use of "me" pronouns versus "I" pronouns was reported to indicate passivity and a reduced sense of responsibility (Simmons, Gordon, & Chambless, 2005); high "me and you" pronoun usage is suggested as a possible predictor of divorce and long-term relationship dissatisfaction (Biesen, Schooler, & Smith, 2016;Buehlman, Mordechai, Gottman, & Fainsilber, 1992) as well as the expression of negativity and criticism by relatives (Simmons, Chambless, & Gordon, 2008). Biesen et al. (2016) suggested that "you" words can direct blame whereas "me" words are used to deflect blame. ...
... Further, couples who used more "you" words engaged in more negative discourse while the use of "me" pronouns versus "I" pronouns was reported to indicate passivity and a reduced sense of responsibility (Simmons, Gordon, & Chambless, 2005); high "me and you" pronoun usage is suggested as a possible predictor of divorce and long-term relationship dissatisfaction (Biesen, Schooler, & Smith, 2016;Buehlman, Mordechai, Gottman, & Fainsilber, 1992) as well as the expression of negativity and criticism by relatives (Simmons, Chambless, & Gordon, 2008). Biesen et al. (2016) suggested that "you" words can direct blame whereas "me" words are used to deflect blame. The generalizability of these findings to other and future relationships has not been explored to our knowledge. ...
... It is generally held that individuals with a secure attachment style have developed more effectual strategies for having their needs met. Conversely, single pronouns I, you, and me words have previously been associated with reduced relationship satisfaction, passivity, and deflection of responsibility (Biesen et al., 2016;Simmons et al., 2005). Consistent with this, the current study found that infant behavior was negatively associated with single pronoun (I word) use, further complimenting the outcomes regarding plural pronoun use. ...
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The cross-generational transmission of attachment appears to reflect a complex interplay of factors, which have been challenging to identify. The current longitudinal study explored the maternal cognitive model of relationships through language use, maternal mindfulness, and attachment style assessed prenatally, as predictors of maternal response to distress and infant behavior at 6 months’ postpartum. Infant behavior to the mother also was examined to provide an understanding of the evolving relationship. Thirty-two females were interviewed prenatally regarding social and family experiences. At 6 months’ postpartum, each mother participated in a video-recorded session where she was asked to teach her infant a developmentally appropriate task. Videos were analyzed using the NCAST Teaching Protocol. Language use prenatally as well as the mindfulness facets (acting with awareness and describing) predicted the mothers’ ability to respond to infant distress, indicating greater attunement. Infant's response to mother and clarity of cues also were predicted by maternal pronoun use. The study highlights the role of internal working models reflective of interpersonal beliefs, cognitive models, and current-moment awareness in maternal behavior. The effect of maternal language on infant behavior arguably indicates the infant's integration of maternal internal working models.
... For example, Simmons, Gordon & Chambless (2005) reported that a higher proportion of I-language and a lower proportion of you-language was associated with better problem solving and higher marital satisfaction. Similarly, Bieson, Schooler & Smith (2016) found that more frequent you-language during face-to-face conflict discussion was negatively associated with interaction quality of couples. ...
... As expected, participants rated statements that contained I-language as having a lower likelihood of evoking a defensive reaction compared with statements that contained you-language. This result is consistent with earlier findings that report a superiority of I-language over you-language for conflict communication (Bieson, Schooler & Smith, 2016;Kubany et al., 1992aKubany et al., , 1992bKubany et al., , 1995aKubany et al., , 1995bSimmons, Gordon & Chambless, 2005). In the present study, the benefit of I-language compared to you-language was larger for statements that communicated one or more perspectives. ...
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Using hypothetical scenarios, we provided participants with potential opening statements to a conflict discussion that varied on I/you language and communicated perspective. Participants rated the likelihood that the recipient of the statement would react in a defensive manner. Using I-language and communicating perspective were both found to reduce perceptions of hostility. Statements that communicated both self-and other-perspective using I-language (e.g. 'I understand why you might feel that way, but I feel this way, so I think the situation is unfair') were rated as the best strategy to open a conflict discussion. Simple acts of initial language use can reduce the chances that conflict discussion will descend into a downward spiral of hostility.
... When conducting linguistic analysis, the aim is to uncover behavioral evidence in the language used in daily interactions because language patterns are indicative of verbal communication and cognition of romantic couples (Biesen et al., 2015;Ireland et al., 2011;Slatcher et al., 2008). Numerous studies have linked self-disclosure to several ...
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Romantic partners in long-distance relationships tend to adapt their communication and their perceptions of the relationship to suit their relational goals. Guided by this premise, the aim of this study was to provide a more nuanced understanding of how communication and perceptions are adapted. For this purpose, self-reports and behavioral data pertaining to 61 heterosexual dating couples were gathered, who all kept a diary for a week, while communicating via a texting platform. By comparing the daily communication and perceptions of the relationship of couples in long-distance relationships to those of couples in geographically close relationships, the study offered solid evidence of behavioral adaption, as the former self-reported greater self-disclosure and greater self-responsiveness to their partners. These findings were supported by human coding and linguistic analysis results. Moreover, while relative to geographically close partners, long-distance partners demonstrated larger differences between partner perceptions and the partner’s self-report for both self-disclosure and responsiveness. The effect of long-distance status on perceived differences was mediated by relationship uncertainty and one’s own adaptive behaviors. The findings suggest that long-distance relationships are maintained through behavioral and perceptual adaptations, which are also meaningful for maintaining geographically close relationships.
... Indeed, Wood (2016) indicated that "I" language is a cornerstone of effective conflict management" (p. 268); while Biesen et al. (2016) found that more frequent youlanguage during face-to-face conflict discussion was negatively associated with the interaction quality of couples. Consequently, when using "I-statements, " one takes responsibility for the part they played in the disagreement and displays openness for deep listening and resolution. ...
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Conflict is a natural but uncomfortable part of all human relationships. Researchers and practitioners alike are interested in developing training and therapeutic methods for teaching couples and families healthy conflict management styles. However, the research literature offers little for practitioners in the way of specific verbal and nonverbal “skills” they can teach to their clients and patients. In this paper, we examine the work of Dr. Steven Winer, educator and practitioner in Communication, with a focus on anger management and conflict resolution in interpersonal relationships. We review the research literature on interpersonal conflict and compare it to the advice offered through Dr. Winer's workshops, which he developed through years of viewing over 4,000 videotapes of communication behavior patterns exhibited by his clients during conflict role-play sessions.
... For instance, it has been shown that specific pronouns predict how couples think and feel about their relationship and behavior (Williams-Baucom et al., 2010), how they cope with worry (Biesen et al., 2016). When it comes to mass and political communication speeches, in which the speaker has the explicit or implicit goal to persuade the audience (Mutz et al., 1996;Poggi, 2005;Poggi & Vincze, 2009;Vincze, 2010), the mere choice to pronounce "we" instead of "you" can have a different impact on the audience's interpretations (Gunsch et al., 2000), namely on how the addressees introject the speaker's message. ...
Article
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An online survey (N = 210) is presented on how the perceived utility of correct and exaggerated countermeasures against Covid-19 is affected by different pronominalization strategies (impersonal form, you, we). In evaluating the pronominalization effect, we have statistically controlled for the roles of several personal characteristics: Moral Disengagement, Moral Foundations, Health Anxiety, and Embracing of Fake News. Results indicate that, net of personal proclivities, the you form decreases the perceived utility of exaggerated countermeasures, possibly due to simulation processes. As a second point, through a Structural Equation Model, we show that binding moral values (Authority, Ingroup, and Purity) positively predict both fake news embracing and perceived utility of exaggerated countermeasures, while individualizing moral values (Harm and Fairness) negatively predict fake news embracing and positively predict the perceived utility of correct countermeasures. Lastly, fake news embracing showed a doubly bad effect: not only does it lead people to judge exaggerated countermeasures as more useful; but, more dangerously, it brings them to consider correct countermeasures as less useful in the struggle against the pandemic.
... During a breakup, people's thoughts may also wander to their former partner and their role in the event. First-person plural pronouns, or we-words, have revealed information about people's relationship commitment (36), intent to continue the relationship (37), and problem-solving behaviors (38). The increased use of we-words between couples during conflict resolution (39) and marital discussions (40) highlight the interdependent nature of successful romantic relationships. ...
Article
Significance By analyzing language on the social media platform Reddit, we tracked people’s social, cognitive, and emotional lives as they dealt with the breakup of a close intimate relationship. Language markers can detect impending relationship breakups up to 3 mo before they occur, with continued psychological aftereffects lasting 6 mo after the breakup. Because the language shifts are also apparent in subreddits (forums) unrelated to relationships, the research points to the pervasive impact personal upheavals have across people’s social worlds. Comparable cognitive and social effects are apparent among people undergoing divorce or dealing with major life secrets. The analysis of subtle shifts in pronouns, articles, and other almost-invisible words can reveal the psychological effects of life experiences.
... Couples' communication efficiency may be a product of their motivation to coordinate their behaviors to achieve a short-term goal (e.g., where to go for a destination vacation). Previous studies have identified the positive influence of coordinative behaviors on relationship outcomes, including collaborative dialogue (e.g., "we" pronoun use; Biesen, Schooler, & Smith, 2016;Rentscher, Rohrbaugh, Shoham, & Mehl, 2013), similarities in speech rate (Aguilar et al., 2016;Black et al., 2013;Cannava & Bodie, 2017;Manson, Bryant, Gervais, & Kline, 2013), behaviors (Aguilar et al., 2016), and language styles (Duff et al., 2011;Ireland & Henderson, 2014;Ireland & Pennebaker, 2010;Ireland et al., 2011;Kovacs & Kleinbaum, 2020). Taken together, findings suggest that these behaviors may maximize both goal and relationship outcomes through their positive impact on partner perceptions of their levels of compassion, perspective-taking, and responsivity (Reis & Shaver, 1988;Schramm et al., 2017;Wallace Goddard, Olson, Galovan, Schramm, & Marshall, 2016). ...
Article
The speed, or efficiency, in which people communicate is linked to positive interpersonal outcomes. However, no studies of communication efficiency have examined romantic partners, making it unclear whether efficient communication is linked to relationship satisfaction above and beyond previously identified communication skills (e.g., problem-solving). We recruited dating couples (N = 56) to attend a laboratory session to complete survey measures and a collaborative communication task. Multilevel models demonstrated that both task efficiency (β = −.36, p = .04) and self-reported problem- solving communication skills (β = .28, p = .002) were associated with relationship satisfaction. Results suggest that communication task efficiency can be meaningfully applied to the study of romantic relationships and couple communication skills.
... Pennebaker was a pioneer in studying pronouns and his research (2013) has inspired other researchers to pay these short words more attention. Some researchers Kacewitz et al., 2014;Biesen et al., 2015;Božić Lenard, Liermann-Zeljak, and Ferčec, 2018) hypothesized that the use of the first-person pronoun is related to higher grades and social status. If people are aware of their knowledge and power, they tend to focus less on themselves and more on their tasks. ...
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Fierce competition of student admission to strong reputation higher education institutions as well as getting employment in respected companies has built the need to profile potential candidates and select those that best meet one's requirements. Our research aimed to predict students' success potential, i.e. grades achieved in their English for Specific Purposes courses. 292 students studying at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Computer Science and Information Technology Osijek, Croatia and 150 students studying at the Faculty of Material Science and Technology in Trnava, Slovakia voluntarily participated in the research by submitting their short biographies. The biographies were analyzed with the software for computational analysis (LIWC) whose output, in the form of raw numbers, was entered in an application specifically designed for this purposes. Based on the input data, the application calculated students' grades in the aforementioned courses which were later on compared to the students' actual grades. The research has proven the application's high efficiency since it correctly predicted students' grades in 75% of the cases and in additional 12%, the grades were approximately predicted, i.e. the predicted grade was one grade higher/lower than the actual grade.
... The most consistent set of findings surrounds "we talk," which is associated with higher marital satisfaction, greater commitment to the relationship, and better coping with serious health problems ( Levenson, 2009). "You" speech, in contrast, has been linked to poorer communication and lower relationship satisfaction, while "I" speech is generally related to higher relationship satisfaction, though findings have been somewhat mixed; some research suggests that "I" speech is related to higher relationship satisfaction specifically among distressed couples (Biesen, Schooler, & Smith, 2015;Simmons, Gordon, and Chambless, 2005;Slatcher, Vazire, Pennebaker, 2008;Williams-Baucom, Atkins, Sevier, Eldridge, & Christensen, 2010;Zimmermann, Wolf, Bock, Peham, & Benecke, 2013). These findings are generally in line with communication skills training, which advocates that couples use "I-statements" instead of "you-statements" during conflict to decrease blaming (e.g., "I felt upset when I saw the dishes in the sink" versus "You never do the dishes;" Baucom & Epstein, 1990;Jacobson & Christensen, 1998). ...
Thesis
People in close relationships are closely and inextricably interconnected—sharing in their moment-to-moment emotional, physiological, and behavioral reactions, both to each other and to their shared external environment. While psychologists often consider how individuals’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors affect each other, I am interested in how our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors impact people with whom we are close, and vice versa. Relationships are made up of complex, intricate, and fast-moving patterns of interaction that can become reinforced, locked, or escalate, impacting our individual and interpersonal functioning and physical health. Therapists who specialize in relationships often target these patterns, attempting to change way couples and parent-child dyads speak and react to each other, in order to improve relationship functioning. Although an important focus of intervention, I am often left wondering exactly where and when to intervene in a chain of events. Couple and family processes typically unfold across time in everyday life and often involve seemingly mundane or insignificant events, such as small-scale insults or a lack of positive interactions. As such, I am interested in capturing and modeling time-based, naturalistically-occurring processes unfolding in couples’ day-to-day lives, in order to better understand what factors impact real-life interpersonal functioning, and to one day develop interventions based on these methodologies. In particular, I hope to identify how small-scale, everyday events and interactions culminate into later outcomes of interest, with a particular focus on how these processes relate to relationship aggression. The four papers that follow are the first products of the Couple Mobile Sensing Project, a collaboration between the Family Studies Project in Psychology and the Signal Analysis and Interpretation Laboratory in Electrical Engineering. The project grew out of my NSF fellowship application, which proposed measuring couples’ electrodermal activity (EDA) in everyday life. With input from many people, the project has grown from there, and now includes many other measures, including heart rate (HR), GPS, and audio recordings. Collecting, processing, and analyzing the various data streams, collected over a 24-hour period, proved to be a difficult task, requiring close collaboration with our engineering colleagues, and has resulted in exciting new directions for our project. The first paper included here is a methodological, proof-of-concept article that is in press for the special issue on new developments in research methods at Social Psychological and Personality Science (Timmons et al, in press). This proof-of-concept paper introduces the methodology of the Couple Mobile Sensing Project and discusses the utility of “ambulatory big data,” a term I use to denote intensive, high volume, heterogeneous data streams collected in real-life settings. In the paper, I describe our methodology and present two mini-illustrations of how these methods can be applied to study relationship processes. I also discuss the challenges associated with collecting these data, such as data processing, analysis, security, ethics, and privacy. In addition, I discuss how these methods can be applied across multiple contexts, to test theory-based hypotheses, as is often done in psychology, and to use exploratory techniques, such as machine learning. The papers that follow provide examples of how this can be done, with Paper 2 employing machine learning and Papers 3 and 4 using multilevel modeling to test psychological theories. The second paper included here is the result of a collaboration with electrical engineers Theodora Chaspari and Dr. Shrikanth Narayanan (Timmons et al., 2017). Our goal in this paper was to use machine learning methods to automatically detect couple conflict in daily life. In this paper, which was published in IEEE Computer in March 2017, we used audio, GPS, EDA, and HR data to correctly identify when romantic partners expressed annoyance to one another in approximately 80% of cases, depending on the combination of features examined. These results, though preliminary, are the first step towards developing just-in-time adaptive interventions to improve couple functioning. The third paper uses Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count Software (LIWC) to examine how word usage fluctuates according concurrent relationship processes, such as feeling annoyed or close with one’s partner, and tests whether these patterns of covariation are associated with the amount of aggression in the relationship more generally. This paper is the first to our knowledge to investigate how language use recorded in real-life settings fluctuates across the day according to ongoing interpersonal dynamics. In the fourth paper, we examine how physiological reactivity during naturally-occurring periods of irritation between partners relates to family-of-origin aggression and dating aggression. This paper tests patterns of physiological reactivity as risk factors in the intergeneration transmission of aggression and also examines gender differences in these processes. It is notable that we find several significant links with family-of-origin and dating aggression, given that we measured small scale, naturalistically occurring periods of annoyance in the context of daily life. Finally, in the supplemental materials, I include data comparing EDA collected using ambulatory monitors to EDA collected with standard in-lab devices.
... Managing conflict. Use of "you" pronouns can reflect a focus on others in relation to oneself and has been linked with negativity, confrontation, blaming, criticism, arguing, extremity, and accusation (Biesen, Schooler, & Smith, 2016;Pennebaker 2011;Simmons, Chambless, & Gordon, 2008;Van Swol et al., 2016, p. 175) states that "you" pronouns are "the equivalent of pointing your finger at the other person while talking." For example, in a decisionmaking group with a confederate playing devil's advocate, use of "you" pronouns was higher than in a group where the confederate agreed with group members (Yilmaz, 2014). ...
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... The use of "I-pronouns," for example, may signify the distance between a speaker and message recipient (Toma & D'Angelo, 2015). At the same time, "I-pronouns" are associated with self-disclosure, whereas the use of "you-pronouns" has been linked to negative communication outcomes, such as worse perceived communication outcomes and feelings of worry (Biesen, Schooler, & Smith, 2015). ...
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... Response options ranged from 1 (always disagree) to 6 (always agree). Originally developed for other-sex couples, researchers have found the MAT to be a reliable measure of relationship satisfaction with same-sex couples and have used it since early research with same-sex couples (e.g., Gottman, Levenson, Gross, et al., 2003;Gottman, Levenson, Swanson, et al., 2003), in more current studies with same-sex couples (e.g., Holley, Sturm, & Levenson, 2010), and with heterosexual couples (e.g., Biesen, Schooler, & Smith, 2015;Halford, Owen, Duncan, Anker, & Sparks, 2014). We created a scale score by summing responses, with higher scores indicating more relationship satisfaction. ...
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... Emotional Word Categories. While some studies have linked negative affect or depression to the use of first-person singular pronouns (e.g., Watkins & Teasdale, 2001), other research has shown a connection between the use of first-person pronouns and marital harmony (e.g., Simmons, Gordon, & Chambless, 2005; also see Biesen, Schooler, & Smith, 2015). Because of these previous findings, we explored whether the present manipulation had an effect on the use of language associated with negative or positive affect. ...
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In the present experiment, participants read about the presence of many versus few others in typical student-life situations. They subsequently wrote an essay about their perspectives on learning in groups. Using the program Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count to analyze these essays signified that participants who read prompts that involved many (vs. few) other students used more first-person singular pronouns and fewer words related to others. We interpret this increase in self-focus as a consequence of induced social crowding.
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This article presents a dynamic conceptualization for the assessment of language style matching (LSM) over time. LSM is a team's mutual adaption of function words like pronouns, articles, or prepositions. LSM is a nonconsciously but frequently occurring communication behavior allowing researchers unobtrusive insights into teams' internal dynamics. Building on guidelines for the alignment of construct and measurement, a dynamic conceptualization and method for LSM are introduced. Simulated examples and interactions of N = 160 individuals in 26 teams indicate that dynamic LSM allows for a truer estimation of LSM than the hitherto used static method. Implications for future application are discussed.
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We are in the midst of a technological revolution whereby, for the first time, researchers can link daily word use to a broad array of real-world behaviors. This article reviews several computerized text analysis methods and describes how Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) was created and validated. LIWC is a transparent text analysis program that counts words in psychologically meaningful categories. Empirical results using LIWC demonstrate its ability to detect meaning in a wide variety of experimental settings, including to show attentional focus, emotionality, social relationships, thinking styles, and individual differences.
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Recent studies have identified robust associations between the types of words that people use and their psychological health. This study investigated whether couples’ word use in their daily instant messages (IMs) is linked to the quality and stability of their relationships. Sixty-eight dating couples in the United States submitted 10 days of IM conversations with each other, which were analyzed with a linguistic word count program. Six months later, couples indicated whether they were still dating. Pronoun use and emotion word use both were associated with relationship satisfaction and stability. These findings extend previous research showing that the frequencies of certain words that people use are associated with the quality of their social relationships.
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This study examined the relationship that personal pronouns spoken during a marital conversation have with the emotional qualities of those interactions and with marital satisfaction. Middle-aged and older couples (N = 154) engaged in a 15-min conflict conversation during which physiology and emotional behavior were continuously monitored. Verbatim transcripts of the conversations were coded into 2 lexical categories: (a) we-ness (we-words), pronouns that focus on the couple; (b) separateness (me/you-words), pronouns that focus on the individual spouses. Analyses revealed that greater we-ness was associated with a number of desirable qualities of the interaction (lower cardiovascular arousal, more positive and less negative emotional behavior), whereas greater separateness was associated with a less desirable profile (more negative emotional behavior, lower marital satisfaction). In terms of age differences, older couples used more we-ness words than did middle-aged couples. Further, the associations between separateness and marital satisfaction were strongest for older wives. These findings indicate that the emotional aspects of marital quality are expressed in the natural language of couples engaged in conversation.
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A pilot study of 172 married couples reveals significant contrasts in patterns and degrees of communication and the efficacy of a measuring device for marital communication. Elements differentiating between good and poor communication in couples are the handling of anger and of differences, tone of voice, understanding, good listening habits, and self-disclosure. Factors contributing to poor communication are nagging, conversational discourtesies, and uncommunicativeness. Findings are relevant for understanding components of healthy communication in marital interaction. Implications are also drawn for marriage (and premarital) counseling, family life education, teaching, and research.
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Abstract Recent studies in social psychology have found that the frequency of certain words in people's speech and writing is related to psychological aspects of their personal health. We investigated whether counts of “self” and “other” pronouns used by 59 couples engaged in a problem-solving discussion were related to indices of marital health. One spouse in each couple had a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder or panic disorder with agoraphobia; 50% of the patients and 40% of their spouses reported marital dissatisfaction. Regardless of patients' diagnostic status, spouses who used more second-person pronouns were more negative during interactions, whereas those who used more first-person plural pronouns produced more positive problem solutions, even when negative behavior was statistically controlled. Moreover, use of first-person singular pronouns was positively associated with marital satisfaction. These findings suggest that pronouns used by spouses during conflict-resolution discussions provide insight into the quality of their interactions and marriages.
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Social media have become a significant means for peer-related communication, self-presentation, and identity management. So-called eating disorder websites that propagate a drastic thin ideal and unhealthy eating behaviors have triggered a debate about the harmful facets of social Internet activity. Little research has addressed the language that is used by the authors of these websites. The present study focuses on personal weblogs, a popular form of mostly text-based, diary-like, online journals. We compared 31 pro–eating disorder blogs, 29 recovery blogs, and 27 control blogs by the means of computerized quantitative text analyses. The language of pro–eating disorder blogs featured lower cognitive processing, a more closed-minded writing style, was less emotionally expressive, contained fewer social references, and focused more on eating-related contents than recovery blogs. A subset of 12 language indicators correctly classified the blogs in 84% of the cases. The distinct language patterns appear to reflect the psychological conditions of the blog authors and provide insight into their various stages of coping.
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Background Previous research suggests that there are advantages to writing in groups or in pairs compared with writing individually, and that men write differently from women. However, as far as we know, no one has yet used new technology to assess published academic articles written in these different modes. Method We assembled 80 papers from recent issues of the Journal of Educational Psychology as follows: 21 authored by individual men, 21 by individual women, 19 by pairs of men, and 19 by pairs of women. We then used two computer-based measures to assess various textual features of the Abstracts, the Introductions, and the Discussion sections of these 80 papers. Results Several differences were found between these various parts of the journal articles (e.g., the Discussions were more readable than the Introductions and these in turn were more readable than the Abstracts). However, there were few differences between the writing of pairs or individuals, or between that of men and women. Conclusions There was no real evidence to support the notion that writing in pairs would lead to better quality articles or that there would be differences between the readability of papers produced by men and women. Such differences may occur, however, before peer review.
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The present study examined differences in natural word use between psychiatric outpatients and nonclinical controls. The Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) was used to determine its utility for the study of linguistic features of psychopathology. 27 patients and 17 community volunteers engaged in a standardized writing assignment. Computerized word count was used to identify linguistic differences between the two groups. Psychiatric patients used fewer words pertaining to optimism/energy, basic cognitive mechanisms, exclusion, and bodily functions compared to the controls. They also tended to use fewer references to the future and communication. No differences were found on pronoun use, and sensation/perception. The LIWC captured features of natural word use that are of conceptual as well as empirical relevance for personality and psychopathology research.
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Links between pronoun use, relationship satisfaction, and observed behavior were examined during 2 problem-solving interactions in which 134 distressed and 48 nondistressed couples participated. Results supported hypotheses that distressed and nondistressed couples would use pronouns at significantly different rates, and that rates would also differ for partners depending on whose topic was being discussed. Actor–partner interdependence models (APIMs; D. A. Kenny, 1996) revealed actor and partner effects of pronoun use on satisfaction and observed positivity and negativity. Interestingly, I-focus pronouns were found to be linked with satisfaction in distressed partners and dissatisfaction in nondistressed partners. The pattern of findings was otherwise largely consistent across topics and levels of distress. These findings have implications for both future research and clinical interventions.
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The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.
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Simple slopes, regions of significance, and confidence bands are commonly used to evaluate interactions in multiple linear regression (MLR) models, and the use of these techniques has recently been extended to multilevel or hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) and latent curve analysis (LCA). However, conducting these tests and plotting the conditional relations is often a tedious and error-prone task. This article provides an overview of methods used to probe interaction effects and describes a unified collection of freely available online resources that researchers can use to obtain significance tests for simple slopes, compute regions of significance, and obtain confidence bands for simple slopes across the range of the moderator in the MLR, HLM, and LCA contexts. Plotting capabilities are also provided.
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The frequency with which a person refers to herself is an important marker of psychological functioning. The aim of the current study was to explore the associations between self-referencing verbal behavior and interpersonal problems. We assessed the frequency of first-person singular and plural pronouns from transcribed clinical interviews with 118 participants. First-person singular pronouns were associated with elevated interpersonal distress and an intrusive interpersonal style; first-person plural pronouns were associated with low interpersonal distress and a cold interpersonal style. When controlling for depressive symptoms, specific interpersonal styles were even more accentuated. Self-referencing verbal behavior appears to have specific interpersonal implications beyond general interpersonal distress and depressive symptoms.
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This study assesses the communication of young adults in relation to parental divorce and past interparental conflict. Results indicate that parental divorce is predictive of poorer reported intimate communication while perceived interparental conflict is predictive of poorer reported non-intimate communication, especially for females. Further analyses of specific conflict dimensions reveal that intensity of interparental conflict was associated with females' non-intimate communication while poor conflict resolution was related to both areas of communication for males. Results have implications for therapeutic settings, marriage and divorce education, and future research.
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Background: This study examined how language reflective of emotional and social processes during a cancer-related discussion relates to patient, couple, and family adjustment after breast cancer. It investigated whether emotional expression or relational focus, manifested in language use, indicates healthy family coping following breast cancer. Methods: Family members each completed measures of adjustment (Family Environment Scale, Dyadic Adjustment Scale, and patient Profile of Mood States) and engaged in a 15-min family discussion about how they have coped with breast cancer. Transcripts from the discussion were submitted to a text-analysis software program to obtain frequency of positive and negative emotion words, and personal pronouns spoken by each family member. The relationship between self-reports of adjustment and frequency of language use during the family discussion was analyzed with regression models. Results: Partners' positive emotion words were indicative of better family adjustment, patients' negative emotion words indicated greater family conflict, and sons' and daughters' anger words indicated poorer adjustment, whereas their anxiety words indicated better family adjustment. Partner we-talk was related to better dyadic adjustment, and couples' 'you' was somewhat related to worse adjustment at all levels. Conclusions: Important information about how a family copes with breast cancer can be obtained by attending to families' emotional and relational language. This study suggests that clinicians and members of families' support networks can gauge how well a family has adapted after the breast cancer experience by attending to the type of words that each family member uses to describe how they coped with breast cancer.
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The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.
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This article is a review of the association of individual and marital problems. The focus is on depression, alcohol abuse, anxiety disorders, and the functional psychoses, each of which interact with marital distress in important ways. Although the causal connections between these disorders and marital distress are complex and only particularly understood, the available evidence shows that individuals' and couples' problems often exacerbate each other. Consequently, regardless of whether the initial presentation is individual or couple focused, there is routinely a need to assess both individual and relationship functioning. Couples therapy, and in particular behavioral couples therapy (BCT), is an important element of effective treatment of depression, alcohol abuse, anxiety disorders, and the functional psychoses. The integration of couple and individual therapy presents a number of clinical challenges, and in concluding this article the authors provide guidelines for managing these challenges.
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We investigated first-person plural pronoun use (we-talk) by health-compromised smokers and their spouses as a possible implicit marker of adaptive, problem-resolving communal processes. Twenty couples in which one or both partners used tobacco despite one of them having a heart or lung problem participated in up to 10 sessions of a smoking cessation intervention designed to promote communal coping, where partners define smoking as "our" problem, rather than "your" problem or "my" problem, and take collaborative action to solve it. We used the Linguistic Inquiry Word Count automatic text analysis program to tabulate first-person pronoun use by both partners from transcripts of a pretreatment marital interaction task and later intervention sessions. Results indicated that pretreatment we-talk by the patient's spouse predicted whether the patient remained abstinent 12 months after quitting, and residualized change in we-talk by both partners during the course of intervention (controlling for baseline levels) predicted cessation outcomes as well. These findings add to evidence regarding the prognostic significance of partner we-talk for patient health and provide preliminary documentation of communal coping as a possible mechanism of change in couple-focused intervention.
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Although adults with anxiety disorders often report interpersonal distress, the degree to which anxiety is linked to the quality of close relationships remains unclear. The authors examined the relational impact of anxiety by sampling the daily mood and relationship quality of 33 couples in which the wife was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Use of a daily process design improved on prior methodologies by capturing relational processes closer to their actual occurrence and in the setting of the diagnosed partner's anxiety. Analyses revealed significant associations between wives' daily anxiety and both partners' perceptions of relationship quality. Associations were moderated by anxiety-specific support. Results also indicated significant concordance between wives' daily anxiety and husbands' distress. Concordance was stronger for husbands who reported frequent accommodation of wives' anxiety symptoms. Findings are discussed in the context of existing evidence on the social costs of anxiety disorders.
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Expressed emotion (EE) has been linked to negative outcomes for a variety of psychiatric illnesses. Despite development of effective interventions to reduce EE, relatively little is known about EE's antecedents or maintaining factors. The present study uses a novel methodology (measurement of pronouns used by relatives during the Camberwell Family Interview [CFI] or a problem-solving interaction with the patient) to explore possible cognitive correlates of EE. Participants were 98 outpatients with obsessive-compulsive disorder or panic disorder with agoraphobia and their primary relative. Results showed that relatives' pronoun use was stable across situations. Relatives' hostility and criticism, as measured by objective coding of relatives' behavior during the CFI and interactions, respectively, were related to relatives' decreased we-focus and increased me-focus in the 2 situations. In contrast to expectations, relatives' emotional overinvolvement was related to their decreased we-focus during CFIs and interactions. Results support the value of using pronouns as a means to explore important aspects of relationship functioning.
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The use of the pronoun "I" when a speaker refers to his own actions, thoughts, or emotions is appropriate. Omission of the pronoun or the use of "you" or "it" may be taken as an indicant of psychological distantiation. This study examines the effects of stress and neurotic anxiety on pronoun usage. Forty-five male and female undergraduate Ss enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University were selected randomly from 172 volunteers assessed for neurotic anxiety level as measured by the Maudsley Personality Inventory and Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale. Treatment consisted of asking 20 emotionally charged questions, 10 of which were neutral baseline questions and the other 10 were either negative, neutral, or positive in stress. Responses were tape recorded and transcribed. It was found that negative stress interacting with medium level anxiety neurotics significantly increased distantiation above baseline levels. A hypothesis to explain the results was offered.
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The present report describes the development of the Penn State Worry Questionnaire to measure the trait of worry. The 16-item instrument emerged from factor analysis of a large number of items and was found to possess high internal consistency and good test-retest reliability. The questionnaire correlates predictably with several psychological measures reasonably related to worry, and does not correlate with other measures more remote to the construct. Responses to the questionnaire are not influenced by social desirability. The measure was found to significantly discriminate college samples (a) who met all, some, or none of the DSM-III-R diagnostic criteria for generalized anxiety disorder and (b) who met criteria for GAD vs posttraumatic stress disorder. Among 34 GAD-diagnosed clinical subjects, the worry questionnaire was found not to correlate with other measures of anxiety or depression, indicating that it is tapping an independent construct with severely anxious individuals, and coping desensitization plus cognitive therapy was found to produce significantly greater reductions in the measure than did a nondirective therapy condition.
Article
The goals of this study were to examine the relationships among measures of couples interactions (satisfaction and communication), and response to treatment within a group of agoraphobic clients and their partners. The treatment included the clients' partners in structured, graduated in vivo exposure practices. Twenty-two clients and their partners completed pre-, mid- and post-treatment assessments. Treatment responders rated themselves and their partners as more communicative regarding the client's fears, at pre- and mid-assessments in comparison to nonresponders; measures of communication related inversely to levels of anxiety reported during exposures, but marital satisfaction did not relate to any measure of exposure. In addition, level of anxiety during exposure differentiated responders from nonresponders; responders experienced a significant reduction in their levels of anxiety. Finally, ratings of frequency of communication at mid-assessment were highly predictive of treatment outcome at post-assessment. The implications from these findings for communication skills training for a subset of couples who enter couples treatment for agoraphobia are discussed.
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The Locke-Wallace Marital Adjustment Test has been in use for over thirty years despite the development of other scales. The role of the test is discussed in terms of theoretical and practical concerns in the measurement of marital satisfaction. Major criticisms are briefly reviewed and empirical questions are identified. These questions are addressed using archival data on four samples totalling 281 couples. The test possesses adequate reliability and good criterion-related validity. A single factor was identified for both men and women. Ten items discriminated in all analyses. Minor changes in the scoring procedure were suggested for two items in response to some criticisms. These changes did not affect the psychometric properties. The alternative scoring system proposed by Hunt was also evaluated and a cut-score was identified. Continued use of the test is justified in general contexts where the broadly based definition of adjustment is appropriate. More comprehensive measures of adjustment and satisfaction and simpler measures of marital quality still leave a role for this 15-item rapid assessment measure of marital adjustment.
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Evidence is conflicting as to whether the association between marital status and psychological distress is due to selection (i.e. distress influences marital status) or causation (marital status influences distress). We investigate: (i) whether differences in psychological distress pre-date marital transitions; (ii) whether levels of distress change following transitions; and (iii) potential mediating and moderating factors. Data on psychological distress (indicated by the Malaise Inventory) and marital status at ages 23 and 33 were analysed for 4514 men and 4842 women from the 1958 birth cohort. Higher levels of distress were found among the divorced and lower levels among the single and the married. Selection was seen in the lower initial mean symptoms of those who married (1.69 for men; 2.84 for women) compared to those remaining single (2.41 for men; 3.26 for women). Causation was indicated by the relative deterioration in distress of those who divorced compared to the continuously married (an increase of 0.31 and 0.03 respectively for men), especially in women (a decrease of 0.18 versus 0.71). This was most evident in women who were downwardly mobile and those with children. Recently separated men and women showed especially large increases in distress. The relationship between marital status and psychological distress involves selection and causation. Findings failed to support ideas of marriage being protective (through social support), or detrimental (through family roles). Divorce increased distress, with both acute and longer-term components moderated by secondary factors such as childcare and declining socioeconomic status.
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The purpose of this study was to determine whether distinctive features of language could be discerned in the poems of poets who committed suicide and to test two suicide models by use of a text-analysis program. Approximately 300 poems from the early, middle, and late periods of nine suicidal poets and nine nonsuicidal poets were compared by use of the computer text analysis program, Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC). Language use within the poems was analyzed within the context of two suicide models. In line with a model of social integration, writings of suicidal poets contained more words pertaining to the individual self and fewer words pertaining to the collective than did those of nonsuicidal poets. In addition, the direction of effects for words pertaining to communication was consistent with the social integration model of suicide. The study found support for a model that suggests that suicidal individuals are detached from others and are preoccupied with self. Furthermore, the findings suggest that linguistic predictors of suicide can be discerned through text analysis.
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Clients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) received either (a) applied relaxation and self-control desensitization, (b) cognitive therapy, or (c) a combination of these methods. Treatment resulted in significant improvement in anxiety and depression that was maintained for 2 years. The large majority no longer met diagnostic criteria; a minority sought further treatment during follow-up. No differences in outcome were found between conditions; review of the GAD therapy literature suggested that this may have been due to strong effects generated by each component condition. Finally, interpersonal difficulties remaining at posttherapy, measured by the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems Circumplex Scales (L. E. Alden, J. S. Wiggins, & A. L. Pincus, 1990) in a subset of clients, were negatively associated with posttherapy and follow-up improvement, suggesting the possible utility of adding interpersonal treatment to cognitive-behavioral therapy to increase therapeutic effectiveness.