"You" speaks to me: Effects of generic-you in creating resonance between people and ideas
Author's Final Manuscript
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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.
Ariana Orvell, Ethan Kross, Susan A. Gelman. 2020. "'You' speaks to me: Effects of generic-you in creating resonance between people and ideas." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117.49: 31038-31045.