Term of Award

Summer 2016

Degree Name

Master of Science in Experimental Psychology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Nicholas Holtzman

Committee Member 1

Amy Hackney

Committee Member 2

Jeff Klibert


The words that people use may say a lot about who they are (e.g., Kern et al., 2013; Weintaub, 1981). For individuals battling depression, it has been argued, first person singular pronouns are particularly widely used. This is assumed to reflect pathological self-focused attention. For instance, Rude, Gortner, and Pennebaker (2004) evaluated writing samples of currently-depressed students, formerly-depressed students, and never-depressed students. They predicted that students vulnerable to depression would exhibit more self-focus in their writing. Currently-depressed students used more first person singular pronouns than never depressed students. Similar studies have found comparable results (e.g., Bernard, Baddeley, Rodriguez, & Burke, 2015; Zimmerman et al., 2013). However, contrasting results have been found as well. Given the apparent variability in effects, we sought to bring some clarity to the issue of whether depression is indeed associated with first-person pronoun use. Employing meta-analysis, I found relevant articles via conducting a carefully executed multi-step process utilizing the Web of Science and Google Scholar databases. Selected articles studied the outcome of depression scores and reported Pearson correlations with pronoun usage. A total of 13 studies were included in the meta-analysis. The mean correlation was r = .133, p < .01. Over the last two decades, it has been argued that first-person singular pronoun use may suggest that a person is depressed. The results of this meta-analysis support this notion.

OCLC Number


Research Data and Supplementary Material