James W. Pennebaker is the Centennial Liberal Arts Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University
James W. Pennebaker is the Centennial Liberal Arts Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers.
Abstract: The smallest and most frequently used words in English are function words — pronouns, prepositions, articles, auxiliary verbs, etc. These overlooked words are profoundly social and can signal the ways people think, feel, and relate to others. Using a variety of text analysis methods, it is possible to track function words to deduce an author’s age, sex, social class, personality, honesty, status, and emotional state. By analyzing ongoing interactions, the degree to which couples, groups, or larger entities are listening to and effectively communicating with others can be estimated. The function word analytic approach has interesting implications for research projects in the social sciences, humanities, education, business, medicine.