Does this blog tell you that I’m demented?

by Carl Natale on June 2, 2010

NPR had a fascinating piece about how our word choices contain clues to our state of mind.

It started with a computer analysis of Agatha Christie’s writing. As she grew older, her vocabulary shrunk and grew simpler. Researchers theorized she was suffering from dementia. Although there was never confirmation or proof. It was a theory.

It then applied that theory to an Alzheimer’s study on nuns. The computer analysis was applied to autobiographies written by the nuns. It found a correlation between word choice and the likelihood of dementia later in life.

OK, this isn’t rock solid. There needs to be a ton of more research to confirm. And we don’t even know if the analysis is reliable. But let’s go with it for the sake of argument.

No matter how hard you try, your state of mind is going to influence your writing. And it may be possible to predict how likely you will develop dementia by running your writing through an app.

But how many of us are as prolific as Agatha Christie or the autobiographical nuns? We probably do pretty well in this era of blogging, tweeting and social media updating. So we can probably create a medical network that pulls in all our writings and analyzes them.

Time out.

Remember we are at the stage that we can take DNA tests to predict how likely we will contract certain diseases and conditions. And we’re worried that insurance companies will use such results to deny health coverage.

At least we can decline to take DNA tests so there is nothing for insurance companies to find out. And even if we get our DNA tested, privacy laws are being drafted to protect our health insurance coverage.

  • But how can privacy protections be applied to our social network writing?
  • Can insurance companies use such analysis to scour the Internet for signs of impending dementia?
  • Will there be an app that reads your blog and identifies personality disorders
  • Will a potential employer judge your trustworthiness from your tweets?

And you’re worried about photos of you at last weekend’s party will be posted to Facebook.

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