And the Happiest Language in the World Is…

According to the Pollyanna principle, formulated in the ‘70s by two social psychologists, people tend to use positive words more frequently than negative ones. Furthermore, we tend to remember in greater detail and describe more exhaustively those memories with a positive rather than a negative association.

Based on this principle, researchers at the University of Vermont in the U.S. attempted to reveal in which language this happened most frequently. The result? The happiest language in the world is… Spanish, closely followed by Portuguese. The least positive ended up being Chinese.

To reach their conclusions, they searched for 100,000 of the most-used words on Twitter, in movie subtitles, newspapers and songs of the 10 most-spoken languages in the world. Then the researchers had 50 native speakers of each language place each word on a scale according to the emotion it produced in them. Beyond the results of the ranking, the Pollyanna principle was proven in the case of each language: we use more positive words than negative ones, regardless of the language we speak. In the case of Spanish, for example, one negative word is used for every nine positive ones. In Chinese, the least-optimistic language, so to speak, the proportion still favors positive words at a rate of 70/30.

The team at the University of Vermont started on this project at the request of Twitter, whose intention is to be able to measure, with the greatest exactitude possible, the positivity or negativity of each tweet posted on the social network. The researchers had already obtained these results for the English language, and they hope to be able to apply this “happiness meter” to the remaining languages very soon.