Department of Psychology
Department of Psychology

James Pennebaker Study the Use of Positive and Negative Words

Sat, February 28, 2004

The New York Times asked James Pennebaker to study the use of positive and negative words used by Democratic candidates Kerry and Edwards in press interviews over a seven-week period. The results are described in an article in the February 28, 2004 edition, titled "Positive Words, Negative Effect" by John Tierney.

"Dr. Pennebaker and two colleagues at the University of Texas, Richard Slatcher and Cindy Chung, scrutinized more than 50,000 words spoken by Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards in five dozen interviews with the press in the past seven weeks. Their computer analysis showed that Mr. Kerry matched Mr. Edwards's optimism by one measure: they both used "positive emotion words" like "build," "energetic" and "admire" at the same rate. But Mr Kerry offset that by using negative words like "fight," "disgrace" and "dangerous" three times as often as Mr. Edwards did." - John Tierney, New York Times (February 28, 2004)

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