You can’t always “get” what you want? UCLA Professor Patricia Greenfield has a new empirical study documenting that the words “choose” and “get” rose significantly in frequency between books published in 1800 versus 2000, while “obliged” and “give” decreased significantly over these two centuries. This is an interesting empirical finding and highlights how empirical humanities research will make advances. She is quoted as attributing these trends to the rise of individualism and materialistic values. How would she test this hypothesis? A possible selection bias issue lurks here. Who wrote books (and who read books) in 1800 versus today? Has the world changed or has the set of authors changed?
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