A study conducted by psychologists at the University of Texas suggests that the use of pronouns may indicate an impending breakup in a couple’s relationship. Researchers analyzed more than a million Reddit posts from 6,800 users and found that three months before a breakup, their language changed and returned to normal only six months after. Also, couples on the verge of breaking up start saying “I” and “we” more often.
According to experts, the use of the word “I” correlates with depression and sadness, a key sign that someone is carrying a heavy cognitive load. The language of couples on the verge of breaking up became more personal and informal, indicating a decline in analytical thinking. They used the words “I” and “we” more frequently and showed signs of increased cognitive processing.
“It seems even before people realize the breakup is inevitable, it begins to affect their lives. We don’t notice how many times we use prepositions, articles or pronouns, but these functional words change when you experience a personality flip, which can tell a lot about your emotional and psychological state,” wrote lead author of the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Sarah Seraj, a doctoral student in psychology at Austin University.
Dr. Seraj explained that cognitive load is when people think or reflect on something and become more self-focused. Sometimes the use of “self” is correlated with depression and sadness. When people are depressed, they tend to focus on themselves and are unable to communicate much with others. And the expression of the patterns peaked on the day of the breakup.
Researchers also noticed that some people’s vocabulary did not recover even a year after the breakup, as people tended to “linger” in the breakup.