A UCLA analysis of words used over the past 200 years in American and British books concludes that our culture has shifted in parallel to the words we use and no longer use in literature. But is that conclusion believable?
AP Photo/Richard Drew
A word-frequency analysis of more than 1.5 million books published in America and Britain during the last two centuries claims to show how our cultural values have changed.
The analysis, done by UCLA psychology professor Patricia Greenfield, found a significant increase in the use of what she considers materialistic and individualistic words like “choose” and “get” and a decrease in community-orientated words like “give” and “oblige,” among others, according to a release from UCLA.
But does this type of analysis prove we are less giving or obliging now than before? Are our families full of me-centric children or parents?
Maybe not. Perhaps the increases and decreases in word usage can be attributed to our own habit of changing a word’s meaning over time.