The Pollyanna Hypothesis
Coined in 1969 by psychologists from the University of Illinois, the term or idea “the happiness bias” or “the Pollyanna hypothesis” states that humans have this general inkling to make use of positive words as compared to negative words. This hypothesis follows the premise that humans are wired to communicate in a manner that would encourage people to get along with one another.
Research of study
Making use of Big Data techniques, a group of scientists were able to gather a large amount of data for 10 languages, namely English, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Indonesian, Spanish, German, Korean, Russian and Arabic. This data was gathered from various sources such as literature, social media, media seen on television, music, movies, news and websites. In order to further substantiate the data they gathered from Twitter, Christopher Danforth, from the University of Vermont, created an interactive meter or hedonometer to measure happiness or positive emotions that are reflected on written words.
Tracking all the posts on Twitter, this meter would note certain changes in the emotions found on the tweets based on certain events. It was noted that people were generally saddened during the Charlie Hebdo tragedy in Paris. On a separate note, it was also seen that the meter saw some ups during happy holidays such as New Year’s Day and Christmas. Apart from being used to track tweets, it was also used to chart the flow of positivity or happiness from literature books. Moby Dick by Herman Melville dipped down at the end, due to its ending. However the Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas saw a rise on the meter due to its positive ending.
Research at the University of Vermont has shown that the most common words lean on to the positive side. Among all the languages in the world, the one that comes out to be the happiest one is the Spanish language. Coming in second is a similar language, which would be Portuguese. English comes in as the third most positive language, followed by German and French. Out of the 10 languages analyzed, Chinese came out to be the language that had the least number of happy or positive words. But the average score showed that people generally make use of happy or positive words more than the negative or sad ones. Upon further analyzing the etymology of different languages and how they were used, it was seen that most people tend to write or communicate with positive feelings as seen in the positive words being used.