The Science Behind

The words we use in everyday life say a lot about our personalities, emotional states, social connections and thinking styles. Recent advances in computerized text analysis allow us to examine all the words people use very quickly and efficiently.

The AnalyzeWords project analyzes data using the text analysis program Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) originally developed at the University of Texas at Austin and the Auckland Medical School in New Zealand. Unlike most traditional word counting methods, LIWC focuses on the almost-invisible function or junk words that we rely on. Junk words include pronouns (I, you they), articles (a, the, an), prepositions (to, with, for) and other small words that typically hold together more content-heavy nouns and regular verbs.

Across dozens of studies, junk words have proven to be powerful markers of peoples psychological states. When individuals use the word I, for example, they are briefly paying attention to themselves. People experiencing high levels of physical or mental pain automatically orient towards themselves and begin using I-words at higher rates. I-use, then, can reflect signs of depression, stress or insecurity.

Other junk words can signal arrogance, social closeness, deception, leadership and a wide range of other psychological states. Because our research team has already collected tremendous amounts of language and psychological data, we have a fairly good idea of which words best tap psychological processes.

This is an ongoing investigation. Consequently, we are saving all Twitter samples that people have submitted. All data we collect will remain confidential. No indentifying information from Twitter, Facebook, or other source that you may be linked to will be shared with any commercial enterprises.

Want to know more about the world of words? Some of the following hyperlinks may be helpful.

Scientific and research articles dealing with the nature of language and personality. Although some may be technical, the topics are broad enough for anyone to understand the main ideas.

The LIWC computer program. Although LIWC is a commercial product, anyone can analyze a restricted number of files on the website. We also recommend you purchase a copy of the program if you are interested in analyzing more than a few files on your own.

Word and psychology exercises. This website is comprised of several exercises that allow you to examine your own psychological state. Most of the surveys and questionnaires provide feedback many of which analyze your word use.