The words we use reflect who we are. Word choice can serve as a key to people's personality and social situations. Since the mid-1990s, my students, colleagues, and I have been exploring the psychology of word use.
What words are most important to track?
Very broadly, there are two types of words: content and style. Content words include nouns, regular verbs, and most adjectives and adverbs. Style words include pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, articles, and auxiliary verbs. The content words tell us what a person is saying; style words convey how they are saying it. Style words are powerful indicators of people’s psychological states.
What can style words tell us about people?
For starters, style-related words can signal basic social and demographic categories, such as:
Style-related words can also reveal basic social and personality processes, including:
And much, much more.
What is the best way to measure words?
LIWC, of course. The computer program Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count, or LIWC, has been in development in our lab since the mid-1990s. LIWC analyzes individual text files and computes the percentage of words in each text file fall into each of 70+ linguistic categories. Some of the categories that are measured include:
Is LIWC available for the general public?
Yes. You can purchase it online (www.liwc.net).
Where is there more information about LIWC and text analysis in general?
Read about LIWC from multiple sites. Feel free to browse or download several of our papers on language by clicking on one of the buttons below:
For those who would like a very good overview of LIWC and the meaning of words, check out: