Human Languages Use Positive Words More Frequently [Study]

Ten happiest languages in the world are: Spanish, Portuguese, English, German, French, Indonesian, Russia, Arabic, Korean, and Chinese

All human languages are biased towards happiness, according to a new study. Researchers found that people across a wide variety of cultures use positive words more often than negative ones. Lead author Peter Sheridan Dodds of the University of Vermont said that humans tend to talk about and look at the bright side of life.

Languages themselves have a positive outlook

Findings of the study appeared in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. To conduct the study, scientists used a huge data set of tens of billions of words based on actual usage. Dodds said that they looked at ten languages and in every language, people used positive words more frequently.

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The study indicates that language itself has a positive outlook. It supports the Pollyanna Hypothesis, which states that it’s a universal human tendency to use positive words more often than negative ones. However, findings suggest that some languages (such as Spanish) tend to skew happier than others (like Chinese).

Researchers gathered tens of billions of words from across the globe using 24 types of sources such as social media, books, news outlets, movie subtitles, television, websites, and music lyrics. Chris Danforth, co-author of the study, said they collected approximately 100 billion words written in tweets. From these sources, they selected 10,000 of the most frequently used words in each of the 10 languages: Spanish, English, French, Russian, Chinese, German, Portuguese, Korean, Indonesian and Arabic.

Laughter scores 8.5, terrorist gets 1.3

Then, researchers paid native speakers to rate each of these words on a 1-9 scale, which ranges from a deeply frowning face to a broadly smiling one. Thus, they gathered five million individual scores of the words. Next, they took the average of these scores for each language. The final result looked something like this for English: laughter: 8.5, food: 7.44, truck: 5.48, the: 4.98, greed: 3.06, and terrorist: 1.3.

Researchers found that all 24 sources of words in all languages they had analyzed ranked above the neutral score of five. In all languages, neutral words like “the” scored in the middle, near five. Researchers said that such language-based instruments might serve as measures of overall happiness or satisfaction across a social network, a cultural outlook, and large populations of people sharing a common language.