Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The generic "you" enhances connection between people and ideas

An interesting piece from Orvell et al.:
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.

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