Magazine article Psychology Today

Woeful Words

Magazine article Psychology Today

Woeful Words

Article excerpt

AMERICAN AUTHORS have used emotion-related words more sparingly over time, a recent study finds. And the decline in positive ones like easy and confident appears to be steeper than the decline in negative ones like/earand lost.

As detailed in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers tracked the frequency of more than 900 words in millions of digitized books and New York Times articles. Past studies indicate that written and spoken language, on balance, feature a higher rate of words that connote positive emotional experiences than those linked with negative emotions.

This slant toward positivity has held over the past two centuries, the researchers show, but has become less pronounced in books. The downtrend could reflect historic declines in social cohesion and prosocial feelings like empathy, they argue. …

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