Latest Positive Psychology…Positive Words Act as Glue for Social Interactions

Words charged with positive emotions are used more frequently and augment human communication

Scientists at ETH Zurich have studied the use of language, finding that words with positive emotion are more frequently used in written communication than those with negative emotional content. This result supports the theory that social relations are enhanced by a positive bias in human communication. The study by David Garcia and his colleagues from the Chair of Systems Design is published in the first issue of the new SpringerOpen journal EPJ Data Science, and is freely available to the general public as an Open Access article.

Previous studies focused on word lengths and frequency. They demonstrated that frequency depends on the length of words used, as a result of the principle of least effort influencing the use of shorter words. In contrast, this study focused on how the emotions expressed in words relate to the word frequency and its information content. The authors focused on words used in written emotional expression in the three most popular European languages online: English, German and Spanish.

They exploited a dataset on human behavior on the Internet, which includes texts from blogs, chat rooms and forums, among other sources. After performing a quantitative analysis on this dataset, the authors found that positive words appeared more frequently than words associated with a negative emotion. This suggests that the emotional content affects the words’ frequency, even though the overall emotional content of the studied words is neutral on average. These findings support existing theories that there is a positive bias in human expression to facilitate social interaction.

Going one step further, the authors also focused on words within their context and realised that positive words carried less information than negative ones. Therefore, because of the positive bias observed in human communication, positive words are more likely to be used whereas negative expressions could be reserved to transmit information about urgent threats and dangerous events.



Garcia D., Garas, A., Schweitzer F., Positive words carry less information than negative words, EPJ Data Science;

This Open Access article is available to the general public on SpringerLink.

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John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

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Author: Dr. John Schinnerer

John Schinnerer, Ph.D. is a U.C. Berkeley-trained executive coach and founder of Guide To Self, a company that focuses on coaching high performing individuals to their potential using strengths-based development and positive psychology (the science of optimal human functioning). He consulted on Pixar's Academy Award-winning movie Inside Out. He was featured in the documentary Skewed. He was recently cited in US News and World Report on anger management. His private practice is located at 913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280, Danville, CA 94526. He may be reached at John Most recently, Dr. John hosted Guide To Self Radio, a daily prime time radio show, in the San Francisco Bay Area. He graduated summa cum laude from U.C. Berkeley with a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. John has been a coach and psychologist for over 10 years. Dr. John’s areas of expertise range from positive psychology, to emotional awareness, to moral development to parenting. He is a noted writer and speaker on topics such as employee engagement, emotional intelligence, making a good brain great, and creating a healthy and efficient workplace. His award-winning book is on proven ways to lead a meaningful and happy life and is entitled, “Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought.” He has written articles on corporate ethics and EQ in the workplace for Workspan magazine,, and Business Ethics. He has given numerous presentations and consulted with tens of thousands of people for organizations such as Kaiser Permanente, Pixar, Sutter Health, SHRM, NCHRA, KNEW and KDIA. For over 17 years, Dr. John has been a loving father to four children.