Or, as they write in their study, "a positivity bias is universal," both for very common words and less common ones and across sources as diverse as tweets, lyrics and British literature.
Why is this? "It's not to say that everything is fine and happy," Dodds says. "It's just that language is social."
In contrast to traditional economic theory, which suggests people are inherently and rationally selfish, a wave of new social science and neuroscience data shows something quite different: that we are a pro-social storytelling species. As language emerged and evolved over the last million years, positive words, it seems, have been more widely and deeply engrained into our communications than negative ones.
"If you want to remain in a social contract with other people, you can't be a," well, Dodds here used a word that is rather too negative to be fit to print which makes the point.
This new work adds depth to the Twitter study that the Vermont scientists published in December that attracted attention from NPR, Time magazine and other media outlets.
"After that mild downer story, we can say, 'But wait there's still happiness in the bank," Dodds notes. "On average, there's always a net happiness to language."
Both studies drew on a service from Amazon called Mechanical Turk. On this website, the UVM researchers paid a group of volunteers to rate, from one to nine, their sense of the "happiness" the emotional temperature of the 10,222 most common words gathered from the four sources. Averaging their scores, the volunteers rated, for example, "laughter" at 8.50, "food" 7.44, "truck" 5.48, "greed" 3.06 and "terrorist" 1.30.
The Vermont team including Dodds, Isabel Kloumann, Chris Danforth, Kameron Harris, and Catherine Bliss then took these scores and applied them to the huge pools of words they coll
|Contact: Joshua Brown|
University of Vermont