The story of “I” tracking: Psychological implications of self-referential language use

Amunet K. Berry-Blunt, Nicholas S. Holtzman, M. Brent Donnellan, Matthias R. Mehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


We review extant research on the psychological implications of the use of first-person singular pronouns (i.e., “I-talk”). A common intuition is that I-talk is associated with an overly positive, highly agentic, and inflated view of the self—including arrogance, self-centeredness, and grandiose narcissism. Initial (small-sample) research provided evidence that frequent I-talk was associated with grandiose narcissism. More recent (large-sample) research, however, has found that the correlation is near zero. Frequent I-talk is, however, positively correlated with depressive symptoms, in particular, and negative emotionality (i.e., neuroticism), more broadly. Frequent I-talk is also positively related to the neurotic variety of narcissism called vulnerable narcissism. In addition, frequent I-talk has a positive association with sociodemographic characteristics such as (lower) status, (younger) age, and (female) gender; I-talk has a conditional association with truth-telling and authenticity—a correlation that appears to hinge on context. This review summarizes the literature on I-talk, provides some speculations about the emergent psychological meanings of I-talk, and provides a guide for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12647
JournalSocial and Personality Psychology Compass
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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