CSBC researchers discover surge in cognitive distortions since the 1980s

In a study published in PNAS, “Historical language records reveal a surge of cognitive distortions in recent decades,” CSBC researchers in the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering and colleagues at IU’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences analyzed millions of books published over the past 125 years. They discovered that, since the 1980s there has been a surge of language indicative of “cognitive distortions,” thinking patterns usually seen in internalizing orders such a depression and anxiety.

The paper results from a interdisciplinary collaboration between CSBC members Johan Bollen, Alexander Barron, Marijn ten Thij, Psychology and Brain Sciences faculty Lorenzo Lorenzo-Luaces and Lauren Rutter, Provost Professor of Germanic Studies Fritz Breithaupt, and Marten Scheffer of Wageningen University.

“Our analysis of the language used in a collection of more than 14 million books published from 1855 to 2019 in the United States, and German-, and Spanish-speaking countries, reveals a worrisome pattern,” Bollen said. “We see a pronounced ‘hockey stick’ pattern in which the use of cognitive distortion expressions surged well above historical levels in recent decades, including those of the great depression, and World War I and II, after declining or stable levels for most of the 20th century.”

The full press release can be found here

Full paper details:

Historical language records reveal a surge of cognitive distortions in recent decades Johan BollenMarijn ten ThijFritz BreithauptAlexander T. J. BarronLauren A. RutterLorenzo Lorenzo-LuacesMarten Scheffer