Wednesday, July 11, 2012
What's on Americans' minds? Increasingly, 'me.' From USA Today.
An analysis of words and phrases in more than 750,000 American books published in the past 50 years finds an emphasis on "I" before "we" — showing growing attention to the individual over the group.
The study, published today in the online journal PLoS One, analyzes how often certain words and phrases appear in written language from year to year. Researchers say it is yet another indication that U.S. society since 1960 has become increasingly focused on the self.
"These trends reflect a sea change in American culture toward more individualism," says psychologist Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. "That can be both good and bad. Some people have argued that individualism has been on the rise in Western cultures for centuries, but that the increase accelerated after the late 1960s. These results suggest that's indeed the case."
Findings show nuances in different aspects of individualism, Twenge adds. "There's an emphasis on uniqueness and greatness, and things being personalized for the individual. But it's not about being independent and standing on your own two feet," she says.