Using Simple Words And Tweets, Psychology Professor Analyzes Personality

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Upbeat, arrogant, valley girl, in-the-moment.

Have you ever considered what your Tweet style says about you? The characteristics above are for the Twitter account of the one and only Charlie Sheen. The “winning warlock” expresses himself in ways that reveal him to be, according to a UT professor’s innovative analysis program, optimistically spacey.

Now consider the brainier end of the spectrum: broadcast journalist Katie Couric. Her Twitter style: upbeat, plugged-in, analytic, and in-the-moment. Do you agree?

AnalyzeWords seems to think so. The program, created by psychology professor James Pennebaker, is dedicated to connecting basic word usage with key personality traits.

Simply plug in the Twitter names of your friends, celebrities, or even yourself to reveal the hidden meaning behind your 140-character updates.

Don’t have a Twitter account? Learn what your words say about your identity through a questionnaire about your daily habits, or find your perceptual style by writing about an ordinary, inanimate object. Just click here. 

His extensive research and computerized text analysis has given Pennebaker a knack for understanding why we choose even the pronouns that we do. (Hint: it really does come down to your underlying thoughts, emotions, and behavioral traits.)

He has also developed the ability to predict sex, age, compatibility, even how long a relationship will last by simply examining the most basic words we use in conversation.

As a former student of Pennebaker’s, I’ve become familiar with many of his online language tools, my favorite of which is the Language Style Matching test. Paste in IM chats or text message conversations with your significant other (or someone you wish were) to determine your linguistic compatibility.

Pennebaker will publish a new book later this summer, The Secret Life of Pronouns. The book explores his conclusion that our use of the simplest function words (pronouns, prepositions, articles, and auxiliary verbs) actually provides insight into our innermost thoughts and feelings.

You can hear more from Pennebaker—and from many of UT’s other most dynamic professors—at this year’s Alumni College. With the tagline “Classes Without Quizzes,” it offers stimulating lectures without the study pressure. It’ll be held June 21-24 at the Alumni Center. To register, click here.


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