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Tuning in to psychological change: Linguistic markers of psychological traits and emotions over time in popular U

Author(s): DeWall CN, Pond RJ, Campbell WK, Twenge JM

Abstract

American culture is filled with cultural products. Yet few studies have investigated how changes in cultural products correspond to changes in psychological traits and emotions. The current research fills this gap by testing the hypothesis that one cultural product—word use in popular song lyrics—changes over time in harmony with cultural changes in individualistic traits. Linguistic analyses of the most popular songs from 1980–2007 demonstrated changes in word use that mirror psychological change. Over time, use of words related to self-focus and antisocial behavior increased, whereas words related to other-focus, social interactions, and positive emotion decreased. These findings offer novel evidence regarding the need to investigate how changes in the tangible artifacts of the sociocultural environment can provide a window into understanding cultural changes in psychological processes. 

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