Macroscope is a powerful tool built to provide comprehensive analyses of historical meaning of words with click of a button. This enables quick insights for a curious explorer, requiring no little to no knowledge of computational linguistics. At the same time, the function to download the raw data of any figure caters to researchers who don’t want to design their own solutions from scratch.

Macroscope is constructed on Google Ngram All English Corpus (2012 version). The key assumption upon which the Macroscope stands is that we can infer the meanings of words through the relations they keep with other words (Firth, 1957). For full details on how Macroscope is constructed, please refer to our paper published on Behavior Research Methods:

Li, Y., Engelthaler, T., Siew, C. S., & Hills, T. T. (2019). The Macroscope: A tool for examining the historical structure of language.
Behavior Research Methods, 51, 1864–1877.

Macroscope is named after the device in Piers Anthony’s 1974 Science Fiction book of the same name, which could zoom in and out of cultural history of alien civilization. Similarly, since words we use reflect who we are, what we feel, and the social relationships we are in, tracking how language changes over history provides insights into psychological change over cultural time. See our work on history of risk as a direct application of Macroscope:

Li, Y., Hills, T.T, & Hertwig, R. (2020). A brief history of risk. Cognition, 203,104344.

Click here to download the complete data for historical contextual valence, arousal, concreteness, and semantic similarity between year i and year 2000.

Conceptual Framework