A recent study claims that American Twitter users are overwhelmingly negative on the platform and utilize swear words more often than those from other countries. Researchers claim Twitter data matches the “established stereotypes” about Americans.
NPR reports that a study conducted by researchers from Canada claims that American Twitter users tweet more negative words than those from Canada. The study analyzed 40 million tweets to study the tweets of both American and Canadian users, finding that in general American users are more negative while Canadian users are more positive.
The lead author on the study, Bryor Snefjella, a researcher at McMaster University in Ontario, discussed the report stating: “What we found is that if you go into Twitter and you quantify the most … characteristic language of Canadians and Americans, you find that that characteristic language really, really strongly matches the sort of established stereotypes of Canadians and Americans.”
The report outlines how words were ranked by level of negativity and positivity stating: “To illustrate, the word “great” has the most negative z-score (z = -89.72) and thus indicates that the noun is significantly over-represented in Canada, compared to the US. Conversely, the word “shit” lies at the opposite end of this continuum, with the most positive z score (z = 104.34), which signifies that it is over-represented in the US.”
The tweets were analyzed by a team of computational linguist researchers who used the geolocation of tweets to determine where each Twitter user was from, discovering that those from accounts based in America reinforced the “rude American” stereotype. “For Canada, you’re talking about words like ‘great,’ ‘amazing,’ ‘awesome,’ ‘thanks,’ being very characteristic,” Snefjella said. “For Americans, it’s words like swear words of all kinds … and then a lot of words of that [evoke] negative emotional states like ‘hate,’ ‘miss,’ ‘bored,’ ‘tired.’ ”
Overall it would appear that Americans prefer to use far more expletives in their tweets than Canadians: “Finally, American lexical choices show a clear relative preference for taboo words, including swear words, expletives, and racial slurs (e.g., f*ck, sh*t, ass, hoe, b*tch, n*gga).”
But the study did not aim to determine why there is such a difference in the types of emotions expressed by Americans and Canadians. “It’s a very, very difficult question to answer,” Snefjella stated. “There is a whole body of research in social psychology that basically says that those stereotypes of us aren’t true. If you just survey lots of Canadians and Americans … personality traits on average just don’t seem to be any different.”
Snefjella stated that it may actually be the language used by Americans that have negative connotations without having a negative meaning behind them, this could include curse words or common phrases. “So if what we’re finding in this study is the sum of the language choices of Canadians and Americans, we can make different choices and wind up with a different picture of who we are,” Snefjella said.
Listen to the full interview on NPR here.