Hidden meaning behind words: things you did not know about yourself

Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.”
Patrick Rothfuss, The name of the wind


hidden meaning behind words
The secret life of pronouns


There is a hidden meaning behind words. The words you use, in a talk, in a tweet, in a dream report in a presentation, they have an overt but also a hidden meaning that can tell a lot. The words your use can tell others if you are lying, if you are cheating on somebody and if you feel committed to the person you are talking to.

James Pennebaker wrote a fascinating book about the hidden meaning behind words. Let me give you an example. I used to be a bit ashamed cause I use the word I very often. And I was thought that doing so is very impolite. But James Pennebaker, researcher, analyzed diaries and concluded that the use of the word I indicates that you feel committed to the thing you are talking about. A person who is lying does not use the word I very often.

The hidden meaning behind the words you use


People who tell a lie will not use very personal words. If you ask somebody if they stole something they will often say” “why do you ask that?”.

The analysis of James Pennebaker of your words (check this link to do an exercise) can determine if you are male or female, if you are young or old, if you are introvert or extrovert.
I did the test as well and here are my results:

LIWC dimension Your data Male average Female average
Need for Achievement 8.47 5.8 5.6
Need for Affiliation 1.69 1.1 1.3
Need for power 0.85 1.7 1.8
Self-references (I, me, my) 0.00 0.5 0.8
Social words 8.47 11.4 12.0
Positive emotions 2.54 1.8 2.1
Negative emotions 0.00 1.5 1.6
Big words (> 6 letters) 11.86 18.7 17.7

I wrote a relatively short story, but I score above the female average on need for achievement and need for affiliation. So I have an inner need to excel, and a need for understanding and cooperation (what this blog is all about: how we can understand each other better by increasing our knowledge). I could go for using more social words. It is sticking that I did not use the word I, even though I always notice my preference for this word in my self-written articles and books.

I hope you have fun with the link and do read the book. It is a lot of fun and it will change the way you look at language.



What is Mindfunda about?

My name is Susanne van Doorn, I am a Dutch psychologist, blogger and author. I have been working with psychology, dreams and mythology ever since I finished my study in psychology at Tilburg University. I made this independant site to share insights, and recent scientific articles about the brain, dreams, and mythology for use in your personal life.

This posting is categorised as Spirifunda:
psychology for everyday with a spiritual layer of meaning, searching for the soul. Our brains are wired for believe in magic. In a world filled with rationality, you sometimes need a little magic, a little “I wonder why”. Synchronicity, the insights of Carl Jung, the mythology used by Freud, the archetypical layers in the Tarot, the wisdom of the I Tjing, Shamanism, the oldest religion of humanity, all that information gets published in the Spirifunda section of Mindfunda.

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