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The rise and fall of rationality in language


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Significance The post-truth era has taken many by surprise. Here, we use massive language analysis to demonstrate that the rise of fact-free argumentation may perhaps be understood as part of a deeper change. After the year 1850, the use of sentiment-laden words in Google Books declined systematically, while the use of words associated with fact-based argumentation rose steadily. This pattern reversed in the 1980s, and this change accelerated around 2007, when across languages, the frequency of fact-related words dropped while emotion-laden language surged, a trend paralleled by a shift from collectivistic to individualistic language.
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The rise and fall of rationality in language
Marten Scheffer
, Ingrid van de Leemput
, Els Weinans
, and Johan Bollen
Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands;
Department of Industrial Engineering and
Innovation Sciences,Eindhoven University of Technology, 5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands; and
Department of Informatics, Cognitive Science Program,
Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47408
Contributed by Marten Scheffer; received October 25, 2021; accepted November 2, 2021; reviewed by Simon DeDeo, Maximilian Schich, and Peter Sloot
The surge of post-truth political argumentation suggests that we
are living in a special historical period when it comes to the bal-
ance between emotion and reasoning. To explore if this is indeed
the case, we analyze language in millions of books covering the
period from 1850 to 2019 represented in Google nGram data. We
show that the use of words associated with rationality, such as
determineand conclusion,rose systematically after 1850,
while words related to human experience such as feeland
believedeclined. This pattern reversed over the past decades,
paralleled by a shift from a collectivistic to an individualistic focus
as reected, among other things, by the ratio of singular to plural
pronouns such as I/weand he/they.Interpreting this syn-
chronous sea change in book language remains challenging. How-
ever, as we show, the nature of this reversal occurs in ction as
well as nonction. Moreover, the pattern of change in the ratio
between sentiment and rationality ag words since 1850 also
occurs in New York Times articles, suggesting that it is not an arti-
fact of the book corpora we analyzed. Finally, we show that word
trends in books parallel trends in corresponding Google search
terms, supporting the idea that changes in book language do in
part reect changes in interest. All in all, our results suggest that
over the past decades, there has been a marked shift in public
interest from the collective to the individual, and from rationality
toward emotion.
language jrationality jsentiment jcollectivity jindividuality
The post-truth era where “feelings trump facts” (1) may seem
special when it comes to the historical balance between emo-
tion and reasoning. However, quantifying this intuitive notion
remains difficult as systematic surveys of public sentiment and
worldviews do not have a very long history. We address this gap
by systematically analyzing word use in millions of books in
English and Spanish covering the period from 1850 to 2019 (2).
Reading this amount of text would take a single person millennia,
but computational analyses of trends in relative word frequencies
may hint at aspects of cultural change (2–4). Print culture is
selective and cannot be interpreted as a straightforward reflection
of culture in a broader sense (5). Also, the popularity of particu-
lar words and phrases in a language can change for many reasons
including technological context (e.g., carriage or computer), and
(e.g., gay) (6). Nonetheless, across large amounts of words, pat-
terns of change in frequencies may to some degree reflect
changes in the way people feel and see the world (2–4), assuming
that concepts that are more abundantly referred to in books in
part represent concepts that readers at that time were more
interested in. Here, we systematically analyze long-term dynamics
in the frequency of the 5,000 most used words in English and
Spanish (7) in search of indicators of changing world views. We
also analyze patterns in fiction and nonfiction separately. More-
over, we compare patterns for selected key words in other lan-
guages to gauge the robustness and generalizability of our results.
To see if results might be specific to the corpora of book language
we used, we analyzed how word use changed in the New York
Times since 1850. In addition, to probe whether changes in the
frequency of words used in books does indeed reflect interest in
the corresponding concepts we analyzed how change in Google
word searches relates to the recent change in words used in
books. Following best-practice guidelines (8) we standardized
word frequencies by dividing them by the frequency of the word
“an,” which is indicative of total text volume, and subsequently
taking z-scores (SI Appendix,sections1,5,and8).
Principal Components of Change
Analyzing language change can imply the risk of cherry-picking.
Therefore, as a first unbiased exploration, we perform a principal
component analysis (PCA) on the z-scores of relative word fre-
quencies in books over time (SI Appendix,section2). This
approach seeks to capture patterns of change in a large dataset
without relying on prior assumptions or search images. In both
Spanish and English, the first principal component (PC1) corre-
sponds to a monotonic trend over time. The second principal
component (PC2) shows an asymmetric U-curve, or “tilted
hockeystick,” declining gradually since the industrial revolution
and surging sharply in recent decades (Fig. 1, first column). Exami-
nation of the words that score highly on opposite ends of either
principal component axis (Table 1 and SI Appendix,section10)
suggests that in both English and Spanish the monotonic axis cap-
tures general trends of word popularity over time. On the high
end (representing earlier times) we find more archaic terms such
as civilized,ox,straw,savage,carriage,andsheriff. On the low end
(corresponding to more recent times) we find words such as cola,
product,ski,allergic,tech,anddummy. By contrast, the tilted hock-
eystick axes are dominated on the high side (more recently) by
words reflecting concepts related to personal experience such as
senses, spirituality, emotions, and personal relationships as detailed
The post-truth era has taken many by surprise. Here, we use
massive language analysis to demonstrate that the rise of fact-
free argumentation may perhaps be understood as part of a
deeper change. After the year 1850, the use of sentiment-
laden words in Google Books declined systematically, while
the use of words associated with fact-based argumentation
rose steadily. This pattern reversed in the 1980s, and this
change accelerated around 2007, when across languages, the
frequency of fact-related words dropped while emotion-laden
language surged, a trend paralleled by a shift from collectivistic
to individualistic language.
Author contributions: M.S., I.v.d.L., E.W., and J.B. designed research; I.v.d.L., E.W., and
J.B. performed research; I.v.d.L. and E.W. analyzed data; and M.S., I.v.d.L., E.W., and
J.B. wrote the paper.
Reviewers: S.D., Carnegie Mellon University; M.S., Tallinna Ulikool; and P.S.,
Universiteit van Amsterdam.
The authors declare no competing interest.
This open access article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0
(CC BY).
See online for related content such as Commentaries.
To whom correspondence may be addressed. Email: or
This article contains supporting information online at
Published December 16, 2021.
PNAS 2021 Vol. 118 No. 51 e2107848118 j
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later (Table 1). By contrast, the opposite end of this axis has words
related to society including words associated with science, rational
decision-making, procedures, and systems (Table 1).
Sentiment Trends
As a next objective step, we analyzed changes in the relative
frequencies of words that have been independently assessed as
indicators of different aspects of emotion (using the ANEW
[Affective Norms for English Words] lexicon) ( 9) and a compa-
rable lexicon for Spanish (see SI Appendix, section 3).
“Valence” or pleasantness associated with a word is a dominant
aspect of many models of human emotion. ANEW valence
values range from low (e.g., for words such as torture,rape,ter-
rorism) to high (e.g., words such as vacation,enjoyment,free).
Some models of human emotions also include an orthogonal
affective dimension of arousal, which can be evoked by words
going from low arousal (e.g., dull,scene,asleep) to high arousal
(e.g., rampage,sex,tornado). Integrating frequency-weighted
valence and arousal sentiment scores for all words from our set
of 5,000 that were listed in the sentiment lexicons we arrive at
an index of positive and negative sentiment as well as arousal
for the entire content of books published each year since 1850.
In both English and Spanish we find patterns of these affective
indicators that closely resemble the hockeystick patterns of the
PCA (Fig. 1, second column and SI Appendix, Table S1).
Principal Component
English All
Intuition related words
Rationality related words
English Fiction
English excl Fiction
Fig. 1. Dynamics of four characteristics of English and Spanish book language represented in Google n-gram data. (A,E,I,andM) Second principal compo-
nent of change in z-scores of frequencies of the 5,000 most-used words. (B,F,J, and N) Relative level of arousal (black), positive sentiment (blue), and nega-
tive sentiment (red). (C,G,K,andO) Z-scores of f requencies of ag-words related to intuition, believing, spirituality, sapience: spirit,imagine,wisdom,wise,
feel,soft,hard,cold,hot,smell,foul,taste,sweet,bitter,hear,sound,silence,loud,see,light,dark,bright (for Spanish: esp
ır,silencio,fuerte,ver,mirar,oscuro,brillante). The black central line represents the mean and the gray shaded area the 95% condence
interval of the mean. (D,H,L,andP)Similarbutforag words related to rationality, science, and quantication: science,technology,scientic,chemistry,
sure,area,percent (for Spanish: ciencia,tecnolog
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Correlated Concepts
Although sentiment analysis allows a meaningful evaluation of
the affective components of language change, sentiment indica-
tors do not necessarily capture the full essence of the sea
change revealed by the PCA. This becomes evident if we exam-
ine the words correlating and anticorrelating most strongly to
the PCA axis, to the sentiment score, and to the overall hockey-
stick pattern. Lists of the 5% top-scoring words are given in SI
Appendix, section 10), but a glance at the 1% top-scoring words
for English already reveals that the patterns we find correspond
to a seesaw between two opposing poles of concepts (Table 1).
On the one hand we have words that may be broadly character-
ized as related to a personal view of the world (Table 1, top
row). At the contrasting end there are words that could be
characterized at first glance as related to societal systems (Table
1, bottom row). The idea that there has been a shift in empha-
sis from the collective to the individual over the past decades is
supported by a pronounced trend toward the use of singular
versus plural pronouns starting in the 1980s (Fig. 2).
A closer look at the short and also the longer (SI Appendix)lists
of words suggests that both the personal and the societal poles
encompass several distinct groups of concepts. On the personal
pole we have words that we could classify as related to belief, spiri-
tuality, sapience, and intuition (e.g., imagine,compassion,forgive-
ness,heal), senses (e.g., feel,smell,silence), and the body (e.g.,
knee,face,chest) but also personal pronouns (e.g., me,you,she)
and activities (e.g., walk,sleep,smile). By contrast, at the opposing
pole tentatively labeled as societal we have words related to sci-
ence and technology (e.g., experiment,circuit,chemistry,dean,
gravity), quantification (e.g., weigh,depth,greater,per), business and
economy (e.g., corporation,commissioner,salary,cost,shipping,
contract), social organization (e.g., jurisdiction,congress,minister,
department,commission,institution), and time and place (e.g., year,
To test if those tentatively discerned concepts do indeed con-
tribute individually to the seesaw that we see in the PCA and
sentiment, we examined the historical dynamics of the separate
concept groups. Most of the groups are straightforward to
delineate. To obtain suggestions for populating the belief, spiri-
tuality, and intuition cluster we also used a thesaurus algorithm
available at (combining search techniques
such as word embedding and Concept-Net). Examining dynam-
ics of each of the resulting clusters reveals a striking synchrony,
confirming that within each language the shifts in interest
across the concepts we identified happen very much in concert
(SI Appendix, section 4).
Arguably, the opposing poles of human versus societal con-
cepts we identified may also be interpreted in terms of how
they relate to two fundamentally different cognitive modes of
operation (10–13), namely system I (“thinking fast,” loosely
intuition) vs. system II (“thinking slow,” loosely rationality). We
test this idea by exploring clusters of words that we now filter
to specifically reflect those opposed modes of thinking (for
details see SI Appendix, section 4). Selected intuition flag words
are rooted in the concepts of belief, spirituality, sapience, intui-
tion, and senses, while the rationality flag words we used are
rooted in the concepts of science, technology, and quantifica-
tion (see SI Appendix, section 4 for a full account). Plotting the
dynamics of the frequencies of words in those clusters supports
the view that the PCA and sentiment patterns we revealed are
Table 1. Contrasting classes of concepts related to a personal (top row) vs. societal view of the world (bottom row) emerge by
ranking words according to their correlation with principal components, overall sentiment, and the hockeystick pattern
Words scoring highest on surging PCA axis
angry, look, walk, unexpected, sleep,
voice, imagine, embarrassed, tortured,
heal, struggling, knowing, potion,
ambush, incredible, looking, greedy,
terried, looks, how, torture, learn, anger,
invisible, mother, comfortable, drunk,
fade, like, brutal, harsh, yourself, pain,
sofa, could, dream, distracted, crying,
what, thanks, her, eat, walking, shower,
helmet, warn, suspected, sense, luckily,
Words correlating most positively to
dressed, nights, beating, mad, forget,
perfume, wore, delicious, crowd, dinner,
took, sister, whispering, saw, hung, next,
shut, bad, together, suddenly, slept,
beside, thought, away, stood, another,
awake, spoke, alive, drank, me, down,
broke, dark, blame, inviting, whisper,
drown, too, polite, moment, dragged, life,
hang, quietly, forgot, glow, silence,
footsteps, surprised
Words declining before 1980 and rising after
perfect, understood, throw, them,
embrace, sight, comfort, nothing, rushing,
place, trusting, awful, beautiful, ever,
hearts, never, awake, throwing, when,
sweet, promise, fallen, threw, cheer,
brother, so, spirit, breathe, every, owe,
believing, thankful, footsteps, him, rest,
stranger, gorgeous, seeing, supposed,
ashes, surprised, joy, cheering, disappoint,
stood, thrown, dare, who, shine, appetite
Words scoring lowest on surging PCA axis
secretary, state, report, year, sec, council,
order, authorized, district, west, eastern,
behalf, northern, president, ofce,
statement, under, January, vice, attorney,
east, committee, resident, October, south,
reference, ofcer, branch, annual, interest,
prepared, following, commonwealth,
August, counsel, exclusive, further, board,
April, collected, November, February, July,
jersey, September, jurisdiction, general,
contract, permanent, remaining
Words correlating most negatively to
deputy, separate, annual, surface, applied,
report, joint, contain, sub, marine, effect,
determined, counsel, established, foreign,
reasonable, congress, qualied, gross,
number, direct, violation, assigned, tables,
increase, request, section, savings,
remaining, temperature, library, permit,
construction, funds, reference, chemistry,
transportation, manual, provided, volume,
capital, chemical, assist, public, member,
retarded, demonstration, affected,
department, rate
Words rising before 1980 and declining after
area, program, indicate, available,
development, basis, determine, initial,
technical, million, addition, nal, range,
replacement, personnel, control, unit,
involved, percent, eliminate, limited, rate,
concentration, increase, result, test, staff,
included, tested, transfer, maximum, zone,
plus, sample, recent, congressman, level,
funds, data, responsible, basic, laboratory,
equipment, budget, procedure,
breakdown, effective, activity, tape,
Listed are the words that score highest vs. lowest on the second PCA axis depicted in Fig. 1, the words that correlate most positively vs. negatively with
positive sentiment, and the words that increased most clearly after 1980 while declining between 1850 and 1980 vs. words that show the opposite pattern
(ranked to the absolute difference in Kendall tau in those periods). We used positive sentiment for computing the correlations in the second column, but
this is closely correlated to negative sentiment and arousal. Longer lists (5%) of English, and the analogous analysis of Spanish words, English ction, and
English excluding ction are presented in SI Appendix, section 10.
Scheffer et al.
The rise and fall of rationality in language
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correlated to a systematic change along the rationality–intuition
gradient (Figs. 1 and 3). Moreover, looking at a small set of
intuition and rationality flag words across a larger collection
of languages (American English, British English, German,
French, Italian, and Russian) we find roughly similar patterns
(SI Appendix, section 9).
Fiction vs. Nonfiction
The Google n-gram corpus has an English Fiction category,
which is a subset from the overall English corpus, thus making
it possible to estimate word frequencies in the English subset
excluding fiction too (see SI Appendix, section 6). While the
resulting corpus (English excluding Fiction) cannot be consid-
ered free of fiction, it may safely be assumed that its relative
proportion of nonfiction is substantially higher than that in the
fiction corpus. Analysis of those subsets reveals that the propor-
tion of fiction in the n-gram database rose from about 5% up
till 1975 to about 35% in recent years (see SI Appendix, Fig.
S9). To explore how this affects the word balance in the overall
corpus we analyzed the patterns separately for English fiction
and nonfiction (Figs. 1–3 and SI Appendix, section 6). It turns
out that the dynamics of intuition flag words and rationality-
related words run in close parallel in fiction and nonfiction.
The magnitude of the surge in sentiment- and intuition-related
words is stronger in the overall English corpus than in the non-
fiction corpus (Fig. 1 Band Cvs. Nand O). This is likely an
effect of rising proportion of fiction in the database over the past
decades, as fiction is more biased towards intuition-related words
(compare the rationality–intuition ratio in Fig. 3 Dand E). More
generally, this result illustrates how changes in the representation
of contrasting genres in the Google n-gram database can affect
4.0 English All
'i'/ 'we'
'my' / 'our'
('she'+ 'he') / 'they'
('her' + 'his') / 'their')
6.0 Spanish
'yo' / 'nosotros'
'mi' / 'nuestro'
('ella'+ 'él') / ('ellas' + 'ellos')
12.5 English Fiction
'i'/ 'we'
'my' / 'our'
('she'+ 'he') / 'they'
('her' + 'his') / 'their')
2.5 English excl Fiction
'i'/ 'we'
'my' / 'our'
('she'+ 'he') / 'they'
('her' + 'his') / 'their')
[frequency singular pronoun(s)] / [frequency plural pronoun(s)]
Fig. 2. (AD) Ratio of the relative frequencies of singular to corresponding plural pronouns in various book corpora represented in the Google n-gram
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relative frequencies of words that are overly abundant or rare in
particular genres. As Google’s policy for including books has
changed over the past decade we also analyzed the 2009 version
of the n-gram database. Patterns turn out to remain robust, even
though the relative proportion of genres in this older database
was different (see SI Appendix,section7). Taken together these
results suggest that changes in the relative interest in the dimen-
sions of language we probed tend to be reflected rather broadly
across genres.
Comparison with
New York Times
and Google
Search Queries
For comparison with the book analyses we retrieved the use of
the two groups of key words (the same as shown in Fig. 1, right-
hand columns) in the New York Times since 1850 (see SI
Appendix,section5). The fraction of articles in which any of those
words occurs tends to rise over time (SI Appendix,section5).
However, the balance between rational and intuition words
reflects the same overall trend we find for books (Fig. 3),
suggesting that neither the long-term pattern nor its recent rever-
sal are specific to the book corpus. When it comes to interpreta-
tion, an important question that remains is whether trends in
word frequencies do to some extent reflect trends in public inter-
est in the corresponding concepts. This is difficult to probe in a
quantitative way. Nonetheless, since 2004 one proxy for interest
is the frequency with which people search a word using Google.
We therefore compared the trends in book words from 2004 till
2019 with trends of the same words in the same time period in
Google search queries (from;seeSI
Appendix,section8). It turns out that change in interest for par-
ticular words in Google search queries is more often positively
(and less often negatively) correlated to trends in use of the same
words in books than expected by chance (Fig. 4). This suggests
that indeed trends in book language do in part reflect trends in
Robustness and Potential Biases
Despite the close relationship between book trends and Google
search interests in recent years, it remains possible that the
long-term patterns we find are in part artifacts of the data and
our choice of words. With respect to the latter, the 5,000 most
frequent words in any language represent an overwhelming
sample of common language use, buffering against the problem
that any individual word may be subject to fashions or change
meaning. Our findings may, however, be subject to other sys-
tematic biases. For instance, our list of 5,000 most common
words and the emotional ranking of words was determined in
recent years and therefore reflects relatively recent language
use. Still, probably the most important caveat of using book
texts is that they are a biased representation of language, a bias
that may change over time (14, 15). What ends up in the uni-
versity libraries used for the Google n-gram data varies with
trends in Google’s book-inclusion policy, editorial practices,
library policies, and popularity of genres. As none of those
effects can be excluded it is important that we find the same
trends for word use in the New York Times. Also, the observa-
tion that rationality- and intuition-related words have the same
trends in fiction and in the general corpus minus assigned fic-
tion suggests that underlying shifts in attitude toward those
opposite poles of thinking tend to be reflected across genres,
an assertion consistent with the finding that legislative texts
have also become more informal over the past decades (16).
It is also worth noting that the link between book language
and social sentiment has been validated in other studies (17) and
that the long-term trend we find until 1980 is in line with what
has been found in other studies including different text corpora
and different indicators. For instance, a study comparing a corpus
1.2 NYT
English All
1.0 Spanish
0.36 English Fiction
3.0 English excl Fiction
[average frequency Rationality words] / [average frequency Intuition words]
Fig. 3. Ratio of intuition to rationality related words in the New York
Times (A) and various book corpora represented in the Google n-gram
database (BE). The graphs depict the ratio of the mean relative frequen-
cies of the sets of rationality-related and intuition-related ag words
presented in Fig. 1, right-hand columns.
Scheffer et al.
The rise and fall of rationality in language
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of New York Times articles from 1851 to 2015 and the Google
Books corpus from 1800 to 2000 showed (18) that in both cor-
pora there has been a significant downward trend in positive as
well as negative words as classified through the Linguistic Inquiry
and Word Count (LIWS) system (19). Another study, using a
corpus from the New York Times, a corpus of scientific articles,
and a corpus of Google Books, revealed that over the past two
centuries in all those corpora there has been a significant increase
of words reflecting causal reasoning as reflected by words in the
“cause” category in the LIWS system (a list of 108 words such as
In conclusion, we cannot exclude the possibility that our
results are biased by as-yet-unknown effects in the data. For
instance, the rise of more casual language in the Google Books
data could be related to the digital transformation enabling
libraries to collect a larger diversity of materials while staying
within budget. Such “known unknowns” as well as yet “unknown
unknowns” should be subject to future research. Nonetheless,
studies using different corpora as well as different marker words
confirm the long-term decline of sentiment-laden (positive and
negative) language and a rise of words related to causal reason-
ing. Meanwhile, the dramatic recent reversal of this trend occurs
in fiction as well as a corpus from which much fiction has been
lteredandisalsofoundinourNew York Times analysis. Thus,
while it will be important to explore alternative word collections,
sentiment classifications, and text corpora it seems likely that the
marked U-shaped pattern we find reflects a true dimension of
language change.
Potential Drivers
Inferring the drivers of this stark pattern necessarily remains
speculative, as language is affected by many overlapping social
and cultural changes. Nonetheless, it is tempting to reflect on a
few potential mechanisms. One possibility when it comes to the
trends from 1850 to 1980 is that the rapid developments in sci-
ence and technology and their socioeconomic benefits drove a
rise in status of the scientific approach, which gradually perme-
ated culture, society, and its institutions ranging from the edu-
cation to politics. As argued early on by Max Weber, this may
have led to a process of “disenchantment” as the role of spiritu-
alism dwindled in modernized, bureaucratic, and secularized
societies (21, 22).
What precisely caused the observed stagnation in the long-
term trend around 1980 remains perhaps even more difficult to
pinpoint. The late 1980s witnessed the start of the internet and
its growing role in society. Perhaps more importantly, there
could be a connection to tensions arising from neoliberal poli-
cies which were defended on rational arguments, while the eco-
nomic fruits were reaped by an increasingly small fraction of
societies (23–25).
In many languages the trends in sentiment- and intuition-
related words accelerate around 2007 (SI Appendix, section 9).
One possible explanation could be that the standards for inclu-
sion in Google Books shifted from “being in a library Google
had an agreement with” to “from a publisher that directly
deposited with Google” after 2004 to 2007, thus affecting the
corpus composition. The 2007 shift also coincides with the
global financial crisis which may have had an impact. However,
earlier economic crises such as the Great Depression (1929 to
1939) did not leave discernable marks on our indicators of
book language. Perhaps significantly, 2007 was also roughly the
start of a near-universal global surge of social media. This may
be illustrated by plotting the dynamics of the word “Facebook”
as a marker alongside the frequency of a set of intuition and
rationality flag words in different languages (SI Appendix,
section 9).
80 English All
100 Spanish
English Fiction
Spearmans rank correlation coefficient
60 English excl Fiction
[frequency pairwise words] - [average frequency null model]
Fig. 4. (AD) Relationship between trends in the use of words in Google
search queries and use of the same words in books for the period 2004 to
2019. Blue bars represent frequency distributions of Spearman rank corre-
lations between each word in books and that same word in Google
searches after subtracting average frequencies predicted by a null model
of randomly matched words (50 bins). To construct the null model we
matched the 5,000 words in books with randomly picked words from the
same word list in Google searches and calculated the Spearman rank cor-
relation. We ran this 1,000 times, resulting in a frequency distribution for
each correlation bin. We subtracted the mean from the resulting distribu-
tion, such that the null line represents the average frequency of correla-
tions (for more details see SI Appendix). Black lines represent the 5% and
95% percentiles of the frequency distributions of the null model per corre-
lation bin. For each of the corpora, positive correlations are found more
than expected by chance, while negative correlations are found less than
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Various lines of evidence underpin the plausibility of an
impact of social media on emotions, interests, and worldviews.
For instance, there may be negative effects of the use of social
media on subjective well-being (26). This can in part be related
to distortions such as the perception that your friends are more
successful, have more friends, and are happier (27, 28) and
more beautiful (29) than you are. At the same time, a percep-
tion that problems abound may have been fed by activist groups
seeking to muster support (30) and lifestyle movements seeking
to inspire alternative choices (31). For instance, social media
catalyzed the Arab Spring, among other things, by depicting
atrocities of the regime (32), jihadist videos motivate terrorists
by showing gruesome acts committed by US soldiers (33), and
veganism is promoted by social media campaigns highlighting
appalling animal welfare issues (31). Many of the problems
highlighted on social media will be real, and they may have
been hidden from the public eye in the past. However, indepen-
dently of whether problems are exaggerated or merely revealed
online, the popular effect of such awareness campaigns may be
the perception of an unfair world entangled in a multiplicity of
crises. Further down the gradient from revelation to exaggera-
tion we find misinformation. The spread of misinformation (34)
and conspiracy theories (35) may be amplified by social media,
as the online diffusion of false news is significantly broader,
faster, and deeper than that of true news and efforts to debunk
(36). Conspiracy theories originate particularly in times of
uncertainty and crisis (35, 37) and generally depict established
institutions as hiding the truth and sustaining an unfair situa-
tion (38). As a result, they may find fertile grounds on social
media platforms promulgating a sense of unfairness, subse-
quently feeding antisystem sentiments. Neither conspiracy theo-
ries nor the exaggerated visibility of the successful nor the
overexposure of societal problems are new phenomena. How-
ever, social media may have boosted societal arousal and senti-
ment, potentially stimulating an antisystem backlash, including
its perceived emphasis on rationality and institutions.
Importantly, the trend reversal we find has its origins decades
before the rise of social media, suggesting that while social media
may have been an amplifier other factors must have driven the
stagnation of the long-term rise of rationality around 1975 to
1980 and triggered its reversal. Perhaps a feeling that the world is
results of neoliberal policies became clear (23–25) and became
amplified with the rise of the internet and especially social media.
A central role of discontent would be consistent with the rise in
language characteristic of so-called cognitive distortions (39)
known in psychology as overly negative attitudes toward oneself,
the world, and the future (40–43). If disillusion with “the system”
is indeed the core driver, a loss of interest in the rationality that
helped build and defend the system could perhaps be collateral
It seems unlikely that we will ever be able to accurately quantify
the role of different mechanisms driving language change. How-
ever, the universal and robust shift that we observe does suggest
a historical rearrangement of the balance between collectivism
and individualism and—inextricably linked—between the rational
and the emotional or framed otherwise. As the market for books,
the content of the New York Times, and Google search queries
must somehow reflect interest of the public, it seems plausible
that the change we find is indeed linked to a change in interest,
but does this indeed correspond to a profound change in atti-
tudes and thinking? Clearly, the surge of post-truth discourse
does suggest such a shift (44–48), and our results are consistent
with the interpretation that the post-truth phenomenon is linked
to a historical seesaw in the balance between our two fundamen-
tal modes of thinking. If true, it may well be impossible to reverse
the sea change we signal. Instead, societies may need to find a
new balance, explicitly recognizing the importance of intuition
and emotion, while at the same time making best use of the
much needed power of rationality and science to deal with topics
in their full complexity. Striking this balance right is urgent as
rational, fact-based approaches may well be essential for main-
taining functional democracies and addressing global challenges
such as global warming, poverty, and the loss of nature.
Data Availability. All codes and data are available at
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. This work is supported by a Spinoza award granted to
M.S. by the Netherlands Organization for Scientic Research, and by the
NESSC Gravitation grant from the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and
Science (024.002.001). J.B. is grateful for support from the Urban Mental
Health Institute of the University of Amsterdam, Wageningen University and
Research, the NSF (NSF Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences [SBE]
1636636), and the support of the Indiana University Vice Provost for COVID-19
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... They consider school an area for preventing individuals from returning home. However, as their children grow older, they are more likely to be worse off at school (Scheffer et al., 2021). The connection between unpleasant events in childhood and negatives is thus identified as being linked physically, cognitively, mentally, behaviourally and socially. ...
... In Pakistan, it is essential to adopt religious concepts of critical women's rights such as autonomy and freedom at the federal level, and the government must examine all women's fundamental rights (Lentz, 2018). Government should also ensure that each country citizen respects the fundamental themes put out by the Religion Committee (Scheffer et al., 2021). In the context of children mental health government of Pakistan initiate some program at school levels; it is help for children's to stable their mental health and get rid of abusive behaviour. ...
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Domestic violence can be systemic violence in a relationship used to gain and maintain control and power over another person. It can include physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and technical or financial abuse. This study seeks to address three main areas: critically analyse the various theories and concepts concerning domestic violence. Second, to determine the factors causing the rise in domestic violence and its impact on child's development, recommend strategies for reducing domestic violence and its impact on children. The researchers acquired secondary data for data collection. Actual databases such as EBSCOhost, Science Direct, Emerald, Wily, and others were used for data collection. The study findings reveal that a wide range of elements must be considered when assessing and resolving the problem. A narrow theoretical focus may lead to the omission of potentially exploratory aspects. It demonstrates that the current domestic violence theory is insufficient to increase therapies' clinical effectiveness and requires an essential research foundation. Key Words: Domestic Violence, Childhood Trauma, Family Upbringing, Abusive Behaviour, Object Relations Theory, Attachment Theory.
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Significance Can entire societies become more or less depressed over time? Here, we look for the historical traces of cognitive distortions, thinking patterns that are strongly associated with internalizing disorders such as depression and anxiety, in millions of books published over the course of the last two centuries in English, Spanish, and German. We find a pronounced “hockey stick” pattern: Over the past two decades the textual analogs of cognitive distortions surged well above historical levels, including those of World War I and II, after declining or stabilizing for most of the 20th century. Our results point to the possibility that recent socioeconomic changes, new technology, and social media are associated with a surge of cognitive distortions.
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This article seeks to explore and emphasise the role of emotions as a key variable in terms of understanding both the rise of anti-political sentiment and its manifestation in forms of ethno-populism. It argues that the changing emotional landscape has generally been overlooked in analyses that seek to comprehend contemporary social and political change. This argument matters, not only due to the manner in which it challenges dominant interpretations of the populist signal but also because it poses more basic questions about the limits of knowledge and evidential claims in an increasingly polarised, fractious and emotive contemporary context. The core argument concerning the existence of an emotional disconnection and why ‘feelings trump facts’ is therefore as significant for social and political scientists as it is for politicians and policy makers.
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The Google Books Ngram Viewer (Google Ngram) is a search engine that charts word frequencies from a large corpus of books and thereby allows for the examination of cultural change as it is reflected in books. While the tool’s massive corpus of data (about 8 million books or 6% of all books ever published) has been used in various scientific studies, concerns about the accuracy of results have simultaneously emerged. This paper reviews the literature and serves as a guideline for improving Google Ngram studies by suggesting five methodological procedures suited to increase the reliability of results. In particular, we recommend the use of (I) different language corpora, (II) cross-checks on different corpora from the same language, (III) word inflections, (IV) synonyms, and (V) a standardization procedure that accounts for both the influx of data and unequal weights of word frequencies. Further, we outline how to combine these procedures and address the risk of potential biases arising from censorship and propaganda. As an example of the proposed procedures, we examine the cross-cultural expression of religion via religious terms for the years 1900 to 2000. Special emphasis is placed on the situation during World War II. In line with the strand of literature that emphasizes the decline of collectivistic values, our results suggest an overall decrease of religion’s importance. However, religion re-gains importance during times of crisis such as World War II. By comparing the results obtained through the different methods, we illustrate that applying and particularly combining our suggested procedures increase the reliability of results and prevents authors from deriving wrong assumptions.
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Scholarly efforts to understand conspiracy theories have grown significantly in recent years, and there is now a broad and interdisciplinary literature. In reviewing this body of work, we ask three specific questions. First, what factors are associated with conspiracy beliefs? Our review of the literature shows that conspiracy beliefs result from a range of psychological, political, and social factors. Next, how are conspiracy theories communicated? Here, we explain how conspiracy theories are shared among individuals and spread through traditional and social media platforms. Next, what are the societal risks and rewards associated with conspiracy theories? By focusing on politics and science, we argue that conspiracy theories do more harm than good. We conclude by suggesting several promising avenues for future research.
en The COVID‐19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of those who are inadequately covered by social protection in more and less developed countries alike, and has exacerbated the fragility of a social contract that was already under strain in many countries. A weak social contract in the context of an exceptional crisis poses a very real risk to social cohesion. Nevertheless, many States have reasserted themselves as the guarantor of rights by protecting public health and incomes. By sustaining these measures, economic recovery will be supported which will help minimize risks that may weaken social cohesion. However, this is a fast‐moving, inherently unstable and protracted crisis. Social protection stands at a critical juncture. Decisive policy action will be required to strengthen social protection systems, including floors, as one of the cornerstones of a reinvigorated social contract. Abstract fr La pandémie de la COVID‐19 a mis en lumière la vulnérabilité des individus qui sont couverts de manière inadéquate par la protection sociale, que ce soit dans les pays plus ou moins développés, et a exacerbé la fragilité d'un contrat social qui subissait déjà des pressions dans certains pays. Un faible contrat social dans le contexte d'une crise exceptionnelle fait courir un risque très réel à la cohésion sociale. Néanmoins, de nombreux États se sont réaffirmés comme garants des droits, en protégeant la santé publique et les revenus. Le maintien de ces mesures sous‐tendra la reprise économique, qui permettra de limiter les risques pouvant affaiblir la cohésion sociale. Toutefois, cette crise évolue rapidement, se prolonge et s'avère de nature instable. La protection sociale se trouve à un moment décisif. Des mesures politiques déterminantes seront nécessaires pour renforcer les systèmes de protection sociale, y compris les socles de protection sociale, comme l'un des piliers d'un contrat social redynamisé. Abstract es La pandemia de COVID‐19 ha puesto de manifiesto la vulnerabilidad de quienes no cuentan con una cobertura adecuada de protección social, tanto en países desarrollados como en desarrollo, y ha exacerbado la fragilidad de un contrato social que ya estaba debilitado en muchos países. Un contrato social débil, en el contexto de una crisis excepcional, plantea un verdadero riesgo para la cohesión social. Sin embargo, muchos Estados se han reafirmado como garantes de los derechos al proteger los ingresos y la salud pública. El mantenimiento de estas medidas propiciará la recuperación económica, que, a su vez, ayudará a minimizar los riesgos de debilitamiento de la cohesión social. Sin embargo, esta crisis avanza rápidamente, es intrínsecamente inestable y será larga. La protección social se encuentra en un punto de inflexión. Serán necesarias medidas de política decisivas para fortalecer los sistemas de protección social, incluidos los pisos de protección social, que constituyen una de las piedras angulares de un contrato social revitalizado. Abstract de Die COVID‐19‐Pandemie hat die Verwundbarkeit jener an den Tag gelegt, die über keine ausreichende Sozialversicherungsdeckung verfügen, und zwar in weniger und stärker entwickelten Ländern gleichermaßen. Zudem hat sie die Anfälligkeit eines Gesellschaftsvertrags weiter erhöht, der in vielen Ländern bereits unter Druck stand. Ein schwacher Gesellschaftsvertrag im Kontext einer außerordentlichen Krise stellt eine überaus reale Gefahr für den sozialen Zusammenhalt dar. Allerdings haben sich viele Staaten als Garanten der Ansprüche erneut bewährt, indem sie das öffentliche Gesundheitswesen und die Einkommen absicherten. Mit Beibehaltung dieser Maßnahmen wird die Wirtschaftserholung unterstützt, was wiederum hilft, Risiken, die den sozialen Zusammenhalt schwächen könnten, zu minimieren. Die aktuelle Krise entwickelt sich jedoch rasch, ist an sich instabil und dauert an. Der Sozialschutz steht an einem Scheideweg. Entschlossenes politisches Handeln ist nötig, um die Sozialschutzsysteme, einschließlich einer sozialen Grundsicherung, als einer der Eckpfeiler eines neu erstarkten Gesellschaftsvertrags zu stärken. Abstract ru Пандемия COVID‐19 выявила уязвимость тех, кто недостаточно охвачен социальной защитой, как в более, так и в менее развитых странах. Она усугубила хрупкость общественного договора, который и без того находился в критическом состоянии во многих странах. Слабый общественный договор в контексте чрезвычайного кризиса является реальным риском для сплочённости общества. Тем не менее многие государства вновь заявили о себе как о гаранте прав, который защищает здоровье и доходы населения. Использование этих мер будет способствовать восстановлению экономики, что поможет минимизировать риски, которые могут ослабить сплочённость общества. Однако стоит отметить, что этот кризис имеет быстроразвивающийся, нестабильный и затяжной характер. Социальная защита переживает критический момент. Потребуются решительные политические меры для укрепления систем социальной защиты, включая минимальные гарантии, как одного из краеугольных камней перезагрузки общественного договора. Abstract zh 新冠疫情暴露了无论在发达国家还是欠发达国家, 未被社会保护充分覆盖的群体都是脆弱的, 疫情也使许多国家本已承受重压的社会契约更加脆弱。脆弱的社会契约叠加超常危机, 为社会凝聚力造成了切实的风险。但是, 许多国家通过保障民众健康和收入, 重新证明了自己作为权利捍卫者的能力。维持这些措施将支持经济复苏, 有助于最大限度地降低可能削弱社会凝聚力的风险。然而, 此次危机发展迅猛、极不稳定且旷日持久。社会保护正处于关键节点。需要采取果断的政策行动, 加强包括保障底线在内的社会保护体系, 使其成为重振社会契约的基石。 Abstract ar بوصفها إحدى ركائز إعادة تنشيط العقد الاجتماعي.‐كشفت جائحة كوفيدالأرضيات19 عن هشاشة الأشخاص غير المشمولين بشكل مناسب بالحماية الاجتماعية في البلدان المتقدمة والنامية على حد سواء، وفاقمت من وهن العقد الاجتماعي الذي يتواجد على المحك في العديد من البلدان. ويطرح عقد اجتماعي ضعيف في سياق أزمة استثنائية خطراً حقيقياً على التناغم الاجتماعي. إلا أن العديد من الدول قد أعادت التأكيد على أنها حامية للحقوق من خلال حماية الصحة العمومية والأجور. وسيحظى التعافي الاقتصادي، من خلال مواصلة هذه التدابير، على الدعم الذي سيسمح له بالتقليل من المخاطر التي من شأنها أن تضعف التناغم الاجتماعي. ومع ذلك، فإن هذه الأزمة أزمة متغيرة بسرعة وتتسم بعدم الاستقرار وقد يطول أمدها. إن الحماية الاجتماعية تتواجد في منعطف خطير. لذا ينبغي اتخاذ خطوات سياساتية حاسمة لتعزيز نظم الحماية الاجتماعية، بما يشمل Abstract pt A pandemia de COVID‐19 expôs a vulnerabilidade daqueles que estão inadequadamente cobertos pela proteção social nos países mais e menos desenvolvidos, e exacerbou a fragilidade de um contrato social que já estava sob pressão em muitos países. Um contrato social despreparado no contexto de uma crise excepcional representa um risco muito real para a coesão social. No entanto, muitos governos se reafirmaram como responsáveis pelos direitos, protegendo a saúde pública e a renda. Sustentar estas medidas significa apoiar a recuperação econômica, o que ajudará a minimizar os riscos que podem enfraquecer a coesão social. No entanto, trata‐se de uma crise de rápida evolução, inerentemente instável e prolongada. A proteção social está em um momento crítico. Será necessária uma ação política decisiva para fortalecer os sistemas de proteção social, inclusive pisos, como um dos alicerces de um contrato social revigorado.
Dichotomous thinking has three dimensions: preference for dichotomy, dichotomous belief and profit-and-loss thinking. Previous studies imply that the dichotomous thinking is associated with low cognitive abilities and low level of education attainment. In the present study, we examined the relationships between dichotomous thinking and cognitive abilities, educational attainment in Japanese undergraduate sample and wider population sample who have different educational background. They completed Dichotomous Thinking Inventory and one of four cognitive tasks: The Cattel's Culture Fair Intelligence Test, Tanaka B method Intelligence Scale, syllogism test or the BAROCO short. Overall, correlation coefficients between the dichotomous thinking and the cognitive tasks were small but significantly negative in undergraduate sample. In wider population sample, dichotomous beliefs were negatively associated with cognitive ability, while profit-and-loss thinking was positively associated. Additionally, multiple regression analyses revealed that people with low level educational background show higher dichotomous thinking tendency. These findings indicate that the relationship between the dichotomous thinking and cognitive ability depends on the dimension, whereas dichotomous thinking is generally related to low educational attainment.
This article examines the post-truth debate and questions the argument that post-modernism and social constructivism is responsible for post-truth and alternative facts, including in climate denial. The article argues that social constructivism is not the problem but rather an epistemological orientation that helps us better understand the rise of post-truth. Toward this end, the essay examines the way empirical findings are translated into political knowledge and the role of science in “truth regimes”. From this perspective, there is no amount of fact-checking alone that will resolve the post-truth problem. The argument is illustrated with the case of climate denial.
This article investigates the role of vague language in legislative texts from a diachronic perspective. It analyses the English part of the JRC-Acquis, a 56 million word corpus of legislative documents from the year 1958–2006. The results demonstrate that there is a highly frequent usage of vague language in such texts, but different types of vague language reflect different diachronic usages. The vague use associated with the semantic group ‘degree’ experiences a significant increase over the years, whilst the vague use in relation to ‘category’ has dramatically fallen. Factors such as the linguistic features of those vague items and the communicative purposes of legislative texts may account for such developments. The results also reveal that legislative texts over time tend to involve the use of more ‘informal’ and conceptually ‘simple’ lexical features so that such texts may become more accessible to their audiences. These findings may provide useful insights for the future drafting of legislative documents, especially concerning how a strategic use of vague language could contribute to the discourse functions of such texts.