How 'you' makes meaning
Susan A. Gelman, Ph.D. - University of Michigan
Why do people say 'you' when they really mean 'me'? The answer reveals how our attempts to derive meaning from life experiences are woven into the fabric of everyday language. I will report our research finding that people--both adults and young children--spontaneously shift from a self-focused ("I") to a generalized ("you") perspective when thinking about norms or reflecting on difficult personal experiences. Using generic "you" helps people 'normalize' challenging events and achieve psychological distance. In this way, a simple linguistic mechanism serves a powerful meaning-making function.