A positivity bias in written and spoken English and its moderation by personality and gender

Adam A. Augustine, Matthias R Mehl, Randy J. Larsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Scopus citations


The human tendency to use positive words ("adorable") more often than negative words ("dreadful") is called the linguistic positivity bias. We find evidence for this bias in two studies of word use, one based on written corpora and another based on naturalistic speech samples. In addition, we demonstrate that the positivity bias applies to nouns and verbs as well as adjectives. We also show that it is found to the same degree in written as well as spoken English. Moreover, personality traits and gender moderate the effect, such that persons high on extraversion and agreeableness and women display a larger positivity bias in naturalistic speech. Results are discussed in terms of how the linguistic positivity bias may serve as a mechanism for social facilitation. People, in general, and some people more than others, tend to talk about the brighter side of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)508-515
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2011



  • Big five
  • Electronically activated recorder
  • Gender
  • Linguistic positivity bias
  • Word frequency
  • Word valence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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