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

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.

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

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less

Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
  • Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
Keep reading Show less

Here's how diverse the 116th Congress is set to become

The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
  • In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
  • Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
Keep reading Show less