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Positive Language Is on the Decline in the ­nited States, Study Finds


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Researchers found changes in language positivity could be predicted by changes in national subjective happiness and misery.

A new study conducted by researchers at the universities of Southern California and Michigan suggests our tendency to use positive language has been on the decline in the U.S. for two centuries.

Credit: USC News

A new study from researchers at the universities of Southern California (USC) and Michigan explored the phenomenon called language positivity bias (LPB). Research shows people are more likely to use positive rather than negative words on the whole in their communications.

The new study found that people's tendency to use positive language has been on the decline in the U.S. over the past 200 years.

The researchers analyzed writing published over the past two centuries from Google Books and The New York Times, and calculated the ratio of positive to negative words. The computations found LPB has waned significantly.

The researchers say the study demonstrates the value of newly available data sources to address long-standing scientific questions.

"In addition to showing that it's important to look at language as a dynamic feature of human psychology, we're also showing that techniques from computer science--the big data of psychology--can have many important applications in studying and verifying long-standing theories about human psychology, and about social sciences more generally," says Morteza Dehghani, who runs the Computational Social Science Laboratory at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences.

From USC News
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