Changes in Pronoun Use in American Books and the Rise of Individualism, 1960-2008

Abstract

Change over time in culture can appear among individuals and in cultural products such as song lyrics, television, and books. This analysis examines changes in pronoun use in the Google Books ngram database of 766,513 American books published 1960-2008. We hypothesize that pronoun use will reflect increasing individualism and decreasing collectivism in American culture. Consistent with this hypothesis, the use of first person plural pronouns (e.g., we, us) decreased 10% first person singular pronouns (I, me) increased 42%, and second person pronouns (you, your) quadrupled. These results complement previous research finding increases in individualistic traits among Americans.

    Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
    http://m.jcc.sagepub.com/content/44/3/406

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