New research reveals how pronouns help us cope with negative experiences.
You is one of the most common words in the English language, but you might be using it in ways you didn’t appreciate. Grammatically, you is a second-person pronoun used to refer to someone who is not, well, you — “the verbal equivalent of pointing to one’s audience,” say psychologists who study this. But you is also a way of referring to people in general, as in “you win some, you lose some.” And a study just published in Science reveals that we use you in that generic way not only to express norms, but also to describe personal negative experiences. Doing so provides psychological distance and helps us find meaning in the hard things that happen to us.