Me, Myself, And I

Posted by | August 30, 2011 12:17 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

President Obama has been criticized by some on the right for being overly self-involved.  The evidence (not that the right needs evidence for their claims) is that he uses the words, ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘myself’ excessively and particularly did so in describing the capture of Osama Bin Laden.  Well a new book shows otherwise.  From a review:

Regrettably, none of these pundits have bothered to look into how Obama might compare with his predecessors. But this kind of comparative word-counting is right up the alley of James W. Pennebaker, a social psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin. Toward the end of his penetrating new book, “The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us,” Pennebaker crunches the numbers on presidential press conferences since Truman and finds that “Obama has distinguished himself as the lowest I-word user of any of the modern presidents.” If anything, Obama has shown a disdain for the first-person singular during his administration.

“Why,” Pennebaker wonders, “do very smart people think just the opposite?” He chalks it up the selective way we process information: “If we think that someone is arrogant, our brains will be searching for evidence to confirm our beliefs.” If we’re predisposed to look for clues that Obama is all about “me me me,” then every “me” he utters takes on outsize importance in our impressionistic view of his speechifying.

We are systematically inclined to hear and see what we want to hear and see.  Getting back to the concept of evidence, as Edward Demming reportedly said, “In God We Trust, all others must have data.”

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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