Deception Detection In Non Verbals And Linguistics

The politics of WE and THEY.

The Secret Life Of Pronouns by James Pennebaker used statistical analysis and research to show that pronouns such as I and we and they as well as the small functions words, which are essentially "invisible" to us in day to day communication, actually revealed our feelings, our state of mind and were close to being a fingerprint for each individual.


Credit: Jane Fennessy/Blue Vapours

The way we wrote revealed a lot of psychological information about us as well as being unique to such a degree, that anonymous text could attributed to an unknown writer.

J.K Rowling was unmasked (and admitted) to being "first" time writer Robert Galbraith, and was detected solely on her use of language, in particular the small pronouns and function words.


So what does this have to do with politics? Words, in particular pronouns, are vital tools of the politician. During a speech or interview they attempt to present themselves in a positive light, while presenting negative aspects of their opponents, and pronouns in particular are used for this purpose.

One way of doing this is the WE (or us) against THEM dichotomy. Vote for us and you'll be better off, vote for them and you'll be worse off.

And with politics becoming more personality driven as major political party become less ideological, politicians present different identities to different voter groups in an attempt to relate to diverse groups. A key persuasion principle is that people like people that are similar to them.

The meaning of WE is that of group membership, it's the rest of the group that includes me. Politicians use of the pronoun WE has several connotations - to talk on behalf of their party, to reduce their individual responsibility or to to include or exclude listeners from a group. This makes WE a very useful linguistic tool for the politician.

"WE as a nation stand tall..." refers to all of us.
"WE have been able to build ever closer links...." now refers to the party.
"WE are a true and trusted friend..... " now refers back to the all of us.
"WE are called upon to do so...." is ambiguous, but refers to a political event.
"What do WE know?" refers to all Australians.
"WE know that the Liberals are in danger of blowing out the budget......." now becomes the political party.

So in using WE, there is a continual shift between all of us (all Australians) and the party, and the listener can include themselves in that group or not.

THEY is similar as a distancing tool: "THEY are not able to balance the budget", "THEY are worried...", "THEY will say......"

THEY can include the Australian people or the party, so a politician saying "THEY won't be fooled by...." is distancing himself from that claim by attributing that premise to all Australian people.

So WE and THEY involve distancing or including, allowing the listener to be part of that group or not, and even as an ambiguous reference allowing the politician to appeal to a wider group, and allowing the comment to be "softened" or negated at a later date.

The primary goal is to always represent oneself in a positive light, and WE and THEY are very useful for that.

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