There has been a marked shift in public interest from the collective to the individual, and from rationality toward emotion

Friday, May 20th, 2022

The surge of post-truth political argumentation suggests that we are living in a special historical period, Marten Scheffer et al. suggest, when it comes to the balance between emotion and reasoning:

To explore if this is indeed the case, we analyze language in millions of books covering the period from 1850 to 2019 represented in Google nGram data. We show that the use of words associated with rationality, such as “determine” and “conclusion,” rose systematically after 1850, while words related to human experience such as “feel” and “believe” declined. This pattern reversed over the past decades, paralleled by a shift from a collectivistic to an individualistic focus as reflected, among other things, by the ratio of singular to plural pronouns such as “I”/”we” and “he”/”they.” Interpreting this synchronous sea change in book language remains challenging. However, as we show, the nature of this reversal occurs in fiction as well as nonfiction. Moreover, the pattern of change in the ratio between sentiment and rationality flag words since 1850 also occurs in New York Times articles, suggesting that it is not an artifact of the book corpora we analyzed. Finally, we show that word trends in books parallel trends in corresponding Google search terms, supporting the idea that changes in book language do in part reflect changes in interest. All in all, our results suggest that over the past decades, there has been a marked shift in public interest from the collective to the individual, and from rationality toward emotion.

The authors blame the change on the failure of “neo-liberalism” which seems dubious and without plausible mechanism to Alex Tabarrok:

A more plausible explanation is more female writers and the closely related feminization of culture.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    We plainly live in a matriarchy. How long before we start sacrificing kings to guarantee our crops?

  2. W2 says:

    Women make everything personal, and focus on their feelings.

    Say that to a woman and she will prove it correct by saying “I don’t!”

  3. David Foster says:

    “shift from a collectivistic to an individualistic focus”….this seems odd. Virtually all public communications today refers to “communities” rather than to individuals…not ‘this program is better for black people” or “we need to help homeless people”, but “better for the black community” or “help the homeless community.”

  4. Roo_ster says:

    Feminization and late-stage putrescent liberalism for the win. And by liberalism I mean the whole liberal enlightenment project.

    When the ultimate liberal power enables mass-slaughter to push globohomo financialized buttseks on Eurasia in the name of “Democracy,” you know liberalism has exhausted any useful energy and is merely hte rotting zombie of its former self. Please, someone put a pike through its skull.

  5. Albion says:

    We used to believe in Descartes’ dictum of “I think, therefore I am,” but today the tendency is more, “I feel, therefore I am right.”

    Thanks to Tinterwebz, everyone can now feel, and declare those feelings with added venom. Until the collective reaches a balance (and with it, encourage people to return to individual thinking and rational analysis) we will have to endure some spectacular emotional fireworks.

  6. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    David Foster,

    That’s buying the rhetoric which cloaks the animating impulse. It’s only natural that bad dudes will simply try to lie about what they are doing for advantage.

    Woman-like qualities are endemic amongst many of those observed as happening to be doing leftism, such as their solipsism; verbally expressed desires often having little to no relationship with their animating impulses, such that they can shift and twist back on each other as easy as the wind, with no consistency over time, in place, or across contexts, and which the subject themselves may oft not have so conscious recognition of.

    Many of such folk are often possessed of abstruse, ‘colourblind’ ideas of ‘value’ that are disconnected with any matter in praxis; that is, while they see something like ‘businesses’ creating ‘value’, they don’t see business as *something that is valuable*; as things that are out there doing things, making things happen, effecting processes of civilization, great or small. That the only way ‘nice things’ happen or could ever be made to happen are if a sovereign apparatchik arbitrates it to be so (the appearance, assumption, and de facto selection-mechanisms producing such men in the first place of course being elided, as if presumed to spring from the aether in state de novo, which we will touch on shortly), and so, you need to confiscate other people’s surplus capital in order for nice things to happen and the more you confiscate the more the niceness.

    To wit, the role of entities like ‘governing bureaucrat’, ‘community manager’, ‘public servant’, et cetera et cetera, in this dynamic can only be understood properly as empty cyphers into which the subject projects his own self. Thus the regressive *identifies* with the apparatus, even it is not himself personally acting in it’s place (a dynamic that Mr. Orwell intuitively sensed in his own times). And thus ultimately showing the clarified expression of how they perceive Being, which is that ‘there is nothing that happens unless I make it happen’; which, when inevitably butting into a recalcitrant reality full of things that do so proceed without their personal intervention, produces severe cognitive stress, such ill feelings then becoming sublimated into a sentiment of, ‘nothing *good* happens unless I make it happen’, which is them expressing in other words, ‘there *better not* be anything happening unless I am making it happen’.

    A solipsistic subversive always speaks of it’s actions in terms of disembodied ‘forces of history’, to disguise the fact that it and others like it are causative agents of such calamities. “My fellow infidels, you need to surrender to my-, i mean, we need to surrender to The People’s demands, or else i will whip up-, i mean, or else a mob of bandits will spontaneously appear out of the aether, and burn down your house and beat up your wife and children.”

    Ultimately, the solipsistic narcissist interprets agency in other beings as hostility. In its mind, the phenomena of other beings demonstrating capability of volitionary behavior, and or not conforming to its own whims in any and all times, is interpreted as if you were trying to do just the same to them, or worse even.

    It takes it as given and granted that the proceedings of the universe conduct themselves in a one-to-one relationship with their unexpressed thoughts about it; and any and every time events conspire to put this presumption to lie, they experience intense psychic dissonance. Thus, the superficial rhetoric of ‘community’, disguising the reality of destruction of community.

  7. Contaminated NEET says:


    No, we’re not post-truth, we’re post-automatically-believing-your-bullshit. The propaganda that comes out of the official mainstream respected authorities is not synonymous with truth.

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