Language is a Virus: Sentence Structure Reveals Brain’s Secrets

Credit: Miguel Navarro Getty Images

I’ve been analyzing the way I write and speak a lot recently for some reason. One of the reasons is stumbling on an article about a group that has developed an AI that can read the way we communicate in writing  to statistically predict whether the subject will develop Alzheimer’s, all with surprising accuracy.

Then there is this computer program which was published in the Harvard Business Review which analyzes the use of pronouns and sentence structural elements (detached from the main content words of the sentence,) as a statistically significant indicator of things like the writer’s or speaker’s honesty, personality, social standing, and current psychology.

So why the interest? First I just find it fascinating that there is this secret window into the inner working of a person’s mind into things the person may not even be aware of, let alone be able to control. What would these tools reveal about me if they were to consume my writing?

Then, as a writer, I’m curious if you could use some of these findings to help make your character’s speech or writing better reveal some aspects of their character that the reader or audience might be able to pick up on, if only subconsciously… Like a form of body language — only a body language hidden within the structure of the way the language itself is used to express something. It’s like the way poets can solicit completely different feelings when describing the same object through their different use of prose, adjectives, and anologies.

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