Happy Talk 

Posted on Feb 23, 2015 - 10:06pm by Launch

Hola! Bonjour! Nín hǎo! Zdravstvuyte!

Hello! ….All of these words mean hello in different languages, but which one of them makes you feel happiest? This may be a weird question, but have you ever thought that the words you use or the language you speak in may affect your happiness? A group of researchers just published a paper in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America) Journal. The article is titled “Human Language Reveals a Universal Positivity Bias.” What does this mean? The authors concluded that human language has evolved to actually include more positive words on average than negative, and overall people speak in ways and choose words that make them happy rather than sad. But, how did researchers come to this conclusion?

The authors looked at different mediums for using language such as books, twitter, television, movies, and songs. They used a standardized test to grade how happy a word in a certain language makes someone feel. Through this data scientists and linguists have been able to map the “happiness” of a language. They did this by looking at the number of words with positive connotations vs. negative ones and how individual words in each language made someone feel. The graphs on the right show the source of the language, the amount of negative words found in the source (light blue), and the amount of positive words found in the source (yellow). The numbers on the bottom represent how happy or sad the words made people feel (1 being sad, 9 being happy), and the red line indicates overall average happiness. Therefore, if language on average made people feel neutral (neither happy nor sad) all of the red lines would be over 5, but they are all to the right of 5! This means all languages on average have a bias to using positive words that make people feel happy more often than negative words that make people feel sad. The authors concluded that overall Spanish is the “happiest language,” while Chinese is the most “neutral language.”

So next time you are feeling a little down, just talk to someone next to you. More likely than not, it is going to make you happier! And if you want the most bang for your buck when talking to make yourself happy…learn Spanish!

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/02/04/14116... by Alex Auclair, Launch Instructor