Language Can Detect Impending Relationship Breakups Up To 3 Months Before They Occur

LIWC Research Series:

Pronoun use in everyday conversations may predict an impending breakup months in advance—even before either partner realizes what’s happening.

"It seems that even before people are aware that a breakup is going to happen, it starts to affect their lives,” says Sarah Seraj, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. “We don’t really notice how many times we are using prepositions, articles, or pronouns, but these function words get altered in a way when you’re going through a personal upheaval that can tell us a lot about our emotional and psychological state.”

This research took place in the Pennebaker Language Lab at UT Austin, directed by psychology professor and Receptiviti co-founder James Pennebaker, who is also a co-author of the paper.

Read the paper


Language left behind on social media exposes the emotional and cognitive costs of a romantic breakup

Sarah Seraj, Kate G. Blackburn, James W. Pennebaker

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Feb 2021, 118 (7) e2017154118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2017154118