When you talk to someone for the first time, either in a professional, social, or potentially date-y situation, it’s easy to pay attention to the proper nouns peppered throughout your discussion — pop culture references, mutual friends, the places where you grew up or went to college. But can you remember how many times you said “I” as opposed to “You”? Probably not. That’s why psychologist James Pennebaker is so interested in function words, or “filler words,” the ones we don’t think about, such as The, This, Through, I, And, An, There, and That; they’re practically invisible to us when we’re in the moment or replaying conversations through our head, but they connect our sentences, and therefore act as a barometer of how comfortable we feel around each other. After studying pronouns for decades, Pannebaker believes it’s possible to predict future romances and analyze power dynamics based on those tiny words. And I can’t remember the last time I was so fascinated by a linguistic study.
Continue reading: What Your Pronouns Say About You (and Power)