Title

"You" speaks to me: Effects of generic-you in creating resonance between people and ideas

Document Type

Article

Version

Author's Final Manuscript

Publication Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Volume

117

Publication Date

2020

Abstract

Creating resonance between people and ideas is a central goal of communication. Historically, attempts to understand the factors that promote resonance have focused on altering the content of a message. Here we identify an additional route to evoking resonance that is embedded in the structure of language: the generic use of the word “you” (e.g., “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes”). Using crowd-sourced data from the Amazon Kindle application, we demonstrate that passages that people highlighted—collectively, over a quarter of a million times—were substantially more likely to contain generic-you compared to yoked passages that they did not highlight. We also demonstrate in four experiments (n = 1,900) that ideas expressed with generic-you increased resonance. These findings illustrate how a subtle shift in language establishes a powerful sense of connection between people and ideas.

Comments

Slight alterations might be found in final published version.

DOI

http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2010939117

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