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Human Language Has a Positivity Bias, Says Study Analyzing 24 Languages

What's the Latest?

In a study that analyzed how different cultures perceive many of the words they use on a daily basis, researchers have found that humans tend to speak positively about each other and the world. Conducted at the Computational Story Lab at the University of Vermont in Burlington, researchers first drafted a list of the 10,000 most used words across 24 different languages including English, Spanish, French, German, Brazilian Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, Russian, Indonesian and Arabic. Then they paid native speakers to rate each word on a positive-negative scale--the word "sun", for example, was generally considered positive while "lonely" was generally considered negative.

What's the Big Idea?

When researchers plotted the perceived word happiness for each language, all languages showed a clear bias toward positive words. Spanish topped the list, followed by Portuguese, and then English; the Chinese language appeared as the least happy. The study "fits nicely into a broader body of research in psychology suggesting that positivity plays a more important role in most people's existence than negativity. For example, we tend to remember pleasing information more accurately than unpleasant information." The curious question of why some languages appear happier than others remains unanswered.

Read more at Physics arXiv

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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