During an analysis of written communication patterns, investigators at ETH Zürich determined that positive emotional content is usually prevalent in texts. They interpreted the results as implying that a positive bias in human communication plays a huge role in enhancing social relations.
The group has been studying language, how it works, and its effects for several years now. Details of its latest research were published in an open-access article, which appears in the journal EPJ Data Science.
The work was led by investigator David Garcia, who moved his team away from the standard type of studies in this field, which usually focus on analyzing the frequency and length of words. The new research focused on studying words used in written emotional expression.
Scientists decided to include the three most commonly-spoken languages used online by Europeans – English, German and Spanish, Science Blog
reports. They paid special attention to how whatever emotions were expressed in words related to the frequency and information content of these words.
After analyzing a large number of messages posted on forums, chat rooms and blogs – among many other sources of data – the team concluded that positive words appeared a lot more often than those associated with negative emotions.
ETH experts believe that these discoveries can be interpreted as suggesting that a positive bias exists in human expression, whose purpose is to facilitate interactions with others, regardless of the context.
Scientists believe that the role of positive words is to transmit standard, everyday data. Conversely, negative expressions may be used during times of crisis, when urgent threats or dangerous events need to be avoided or dealt with at a moment's notice.
Evolutionarily speaking, this trait came in handy to our ancestors, when their very survival depended on whether they were able to communicate what they actually meant in revealing terms. Otherwise, they risked becoming dinner for a hungry beast.
This type of survival pressure may have actually been one of the driving forces that led to the development of such a complex variety of language as the one that our species displays today.