Adversity and Resilience: Perils & Potential for Growth

Tracking people's lives through their words and stories

Jamie W. Pennebaker

Jamie W. Pennebaker
Regents Centennial Professor of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin

September 20, 2018
3:30 to 5:00 pm

Monsanto Auditorium in the Bond Life Sciences Center

map, parking and directions

Free and open to the public
lecture flyer (pdf)

James W. Pennebaker is the Regents Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.  Pennebaker’s earliest work examined the psychology of physical symptoms.  The symptom research ultimately led to his discovery of expressive writing which found that writing about emotional upheavals improved physical health and immune function. More recent studies have explored natural language.  He finds that everyday word use is related to personality, deception, status, group dynamics, and emotional states. He is now exploring how language analyses can be used to understand stories and social processes associated with education and learning. Author or editor of 10 books and over 300 scientific articles, Pennebaker has received several university and international awards for his research and teaching.  His most recent books are The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us (Bloomsbury, 2011) and Opening Up by Writing it Down (Guilford, 2016).


Some of the smallest, most forgettable words that we use in everyday conversations can reveal our emotions, our thinking patterns, and how we connect with others.  A revolution in computer-based text analysis has provided tools to analyze people's use of pronouns, articles, and other function words that serve as clues to tracking deception, status, group formation, social skills, and personality. The analysis of language can serve as a parallel way to understand human thinking and behavior to complement self-reports. The psychological study of history, business, groups, culture, and entire civilizations is now possible as long as linguistic trails exist.

Suggested Readings

Boyd, R. L., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2017). Language-based personality: a new approach to personality in a digital world. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 18, 63-68.

Mitra, T., Counts, S., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2016). Understanding anti-vaccination attitudes in social media. Proceedings of the International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media.

Pennebaker, J. W., Chung, C. K., Frazee, J., Lavergne, G.M., &Beaver, D.I. (2014). When Small Words Foretell Academic Success: The Case of College Admissions Essays. PLoS ONE 9(12): e115844. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0115844

Pennebaker, J. W. (1997). Writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process. Psychological Science, 8(3), 162-166.

Distinguished Lecture Series Contact:
Jacqueline Chenault, Department of Psychological Science