Hat tip to the researchers who found that language is inherently happy
Here’s a fun bit of information: We’re all optimists.
Or at least that’s my takeaway from a new study called “Human Language Reveals a Universal Positivity Bias.”
The University of Vermont and The MITRE Corporation studied over 100,000 words in 10 different languages and determined that yes, overwhelmingly the human tendency is to look on the bright side — at least when it comes to language.
As one of the researchers, mathematician Chris Danforth told Science Daily, “by looking at the words people actually use most often they found that, on average, we — humanity — ‘use more happy words than sad words.'”
When you think of the way we bully, we taunt, we troll, we shame, it can be hard to truly believe that language is inherently more positive than negative but it really is! And yes, the study even analyzed tweets and found the same results.
The studies two co-leaders, Danforth and Peter Dodds, looked at words from all around the world, using 24 different resources like movie subtitles, lyrics, news outlets, books, and social media. The findings were universal.
So which were the happiest languages? According to the study the top of the list featured Spanish, Portuguese, English and Indonesian. The least happy languages (again, according to the study) were Korean, Russian, Arabic and Chinese. But, all of the languages were more happy than they were sad! Of course, this came with a lot of caveats and is a lot more complicated than our super-simple explanation but (like language) we’re choosing to focus on the positive.
Their next project involves a contraption called the hedonometer — essentially a happiness meter. It traces the “global happiness signal” using real-time Twitter posts and while it noted a big drop in happiness during the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the next three days showed a total rebound, implying that universally we are positive and resilient.
So there you have it: The glass is officially half full.