This seems to lend support to the so-called Pollyanna Principle, put forth in 1969, that argues for a universal human tendency to use positive words more often, easily and in more ways than negative words.
Of course, most people would rank some words, like "the," with the same score: a neutral 5. Other words, like "pregnancy," have a wide spread, with some people ranking it high and others low. At the top of this list of words that elicited strongly divergent feelings: "profanities, alcohol and tobacco, religion, both capitalism and socialism, sex, marriage, fast foods, climate, and cultural phenomena such as the Beatles, the iPhone, and zombies," the researchers write.
"A lot of these words the neutral words or ones that have big standard deviations get washed out when we use them as a measure," Dodds notes. Instead, the trends he and his team have observed are driven by the bulk of English words tending to be happy.
If we think of words as atoms and sentences as molecules that combine to form a whole text, "we're looking at atoms," says Dodds. "A lot of news is bad," he says, and short-term happiness may rise and and fall like the cycles of the economy, "but the atoms of the story of language are, overall, on the positive side."
|Contact: Joshua Brown|
University of Vermont