Positive words: the glue to social interaction

May 24, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Scientists at ETH Zurich have studied the use of language, finding that words with a positive emotional content are more frequently used in written communication. This result supports the theory that social relations are enhanced by a positive bias in human communication. The study by David Garcia and his colleagues from the Chair of Systems Design is published in the first issue of the new SpringerOpen journal EPJ Data Science, and is freely available to the general public as an Open Access article.

Previous studies focused on word lengths and frequency. They demonstrated that frequency depends on the length of words used, as a result of the principle of least effort influencing the use of shorter words. In contrast, this study focused on how the emotions expressed in words relate to the word frequency and its information content. The authors focused on words used in written in the three most popular European languages online: English, German and Spanish.

They exploited a dataset on human behavior on the Internet, which includes texts from blogs, chat rooms and forums, among other sources. After performing a quantitative analysis on this dataset, the authors found that positive words appeared more frequently than words associated with a negative emotion. This suggests that the affects the words' frequency, even though the overall emotional content of the studied words is neutral on average. These findings support existing theories that there is a positive bias in human expression to facilitate .

Going one step further, the authors also focused on words within their context and realised that positive words carried less information than negative ones. Therefore, because of the positive bias observed in , positive words are more likely to be used whereas negative expressions could be reserved to transmit information about urgent threats and dangerous events.

Explore further: Why plants in the office make us more productive

More information: Garcia D., Garas, A., Schweitzer F., Positive words carry less information than negative words, European Physical Journal Data Science (EPJ Data Science); www.springerlink.com/content/487p8w5635603351

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Linguists to re-think reason for short words

Jan 25, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Linguists have thought for many years the length of words is related to the frequency of use, with short words used more often than long ones. Now researchers in the US have shown the length is more closely ...

Linguistics may be clue to emotions

Jan 20, 2005

Words may be a clue to how people, regardless of their language, think about and process emotions, according to a Penn State researcher. "It has been suggested in the past that all cultures have in common a small number of ...

We may be less happy, but our language isn't

Jan 12, 2012

"If it bleeds, it leads," goes the cynical saying with television and newspaper editors. In other words, most news is bad news and the worst news gets the big story on the front page.

Swear words shed light on how language shapes thought

Jul 25, 2011

Why were people offended when BBC broadcaster James Naughtie mispronounced the surname of the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt? Why is it much easier for bilingual speakers to swear in their second language? ...

Recommended for you

Precarious work schedules common among younger workers

Aug 29, 2014

One wish many workers may have this Labor Day is for more control and predictability of their work schedules. A new report finds that unpredictability is widespread in many workers' schedules—one reason ...

Girls got game

Aug 29, 2014

Debi Taylor has worked in everything from construction development to IT, and is well and truly socialised into male-dominated workplaces. So when she found herself the only female in her game development ...

Computer games give a boost to English

Aug 28, 2014

If you want to make a mark in the world of computer games you had better have a good English vocabulary. It has now also been scientifically proven that someone who is good at computer games has a larger ...

Saddam Hussein—a sincere dictator?

Aug 28, 2014

Are political speeches manipulative and strategic? They could be – when politicians say one thing in public, and privately believe something else, political scientists say. Saddam Hussein's legacy of recording private discussions ...

User comments : 0