Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Linguistics May Be Clue To Emotions, According To Penn State Research

Date:
January 24, 2005
Source:
Penn State
Summary:
Words may be a clue to how people, regardless of their language, think about and process emotions, according to a Penn State researcher.

Words may be a clue to how people, regardless of their language, think about and process emotions, according to a Penn State researcher.

"It has been suggested in the past that all cultures have in common a small number of emotions or emotion words, but that every culture has multiple ways of nuancing them, sometimes quite differently," says Dr. Robert W. Schrauf, associate professor of applied linguistics at Penn State.

These words include joy or happiness, fear, anger and sadness. Schrauf and Julia Sanchez, graduate student in psychology, Chicago School for Psychology, asked groups of people in Mexico City and Chicago in two age groups, 20 years old and 65 years old, to freely list the names of as many emotions as they could. The emotions were then categorized as negative, positive or neutral.

"People know more negative emotion words than positive or neutral words. The proportion of words was 50 percent negative, 30 percent positive and 20 percent neutral," says Schrauf. "The cognitive explanation is that we process negative and positive emotions in two channels."

Reporting in a recent issue of the Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, the researchers explain that positive emotions are processed schematically. People do not pay a lot of attention to assessment of positive emotions. In general, positive emotions signal that things are ok, so we process them more superficially. Negative emotions signal that something is wrong, and so they elicit a slowdown in processing. They require more attention and detail in thinking and, consequently, more words.

"Negative emotions require more detailed thinking, more subtle distinctions," says Schrauf. "So they require more names." There was no significant difference between the Spanish and English speaking groups in the proportions of negative versus positive responses to the assignment.

"We want to know if there are psychological differences between cultures in the way we see the world," says Schrauf. "We found that there are a small number of pan cultural emotion words, which probably makes good evolutionary sense, and that the proportion of negative words was larger than the positive ones."

The younger participants, regardless of language, tended to use the same sets of words with limited diversity in their responses. The older participants had fewer identical words but far more diversity.

"We expect a more diverse vocabulary in the older participants. They have experienced more living and have broader vocabularies," says the Penn State researcher. "This suggests that older adults have more diverse emotions."

However, the proportions of negative, positive and neutral words remained the same for the older adults with 50 percent negative, 30 percent positive and 20 percent neutral. So whether they were young or old, spoke English or Spanish, the proportion of words available to describe negative emotions was always much greater than those for positive emotions and the relationships stayed the same.

"Cross culturally, it appears that the cognitive approach to processing emotions is the same, with negative emotions requiring more detail and therefore more words and positive emotions requiring fewer words," says Schrauf. "Negative emotions trigger detailed process distinctions, nuances and, consequently, more words."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Penn State. "Linguistics May Be Clue To Emotions, According To Penn State Research." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 January 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050123213111.htm>.
Penn State. (2005, January 24). Linguistics May Be Clue To Emotions, According To Penn State Research. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050123213111.htm
Penn State. "Linguistics May Be Clue To Emotions, According To Penn State Research." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050123213111.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins