Tuesday, July 28, 2009

If You're Happy, Then We Know It: New Research Measures Mood

The point is that analysis of words and citations can reveal the shape of knowledge creation. More at Tough Love for Xerox.

If You're Happy, Then We Know It: New Research Measures Mood:
". . . what if you had a remote-sensing mechanism that could record how millions of people around the world were feeling on any particular day — without their knowing?

Large-scale happiness
That's exactly what Peter Dodds and Chris Danforth, a mathematician and computer scientist working in the Advanced Computing Center at the University of Vermont, have created.

Their methods show that Election Day, November 4, 2008, was the happiest day in four years. The day of Michael Jackson's death, one of the unhappiest.

'The proliferation of personal online writing such as blogs gives us the opportunity to measure emotional levels in real time,' they write in their study, 'Measuring the Happiness of Large-Scale Written Expression: Songs, Blogs, and Presidents,3' now available in an early online edition of the journal.

Their answer to Edgeworth's daydream begins with a website, http://www.wefeelfine.org4 that mines through some 2.3 million blogs, looking for sentences beginning with "I feel" or "I am feeling."

"We gathered nearly 10 million sentences from their site," Dodds says. Then, drawing on a standardized "psychological valence" of words established by the Affective Norms for English Words (ANEW) study, each sentence receives a happiness score. In the ANEW study, a large pool of participants graded their reaction to 1,034 words, forming a kind of "happy-unhappy" scale from 1 to 9. For example, "triumphant" averaged 8.87, "paradise" 8.72, "pancakes" 6.08, "vanity" 4.30, "hostage" 2.20, and "suicide" 1.25.


  1. very very cool. A great invention to create statistics. Also it could probably find out whether a person kills them self or kills before they do it. Very useful mechanism and if upgraded, i could believe that certain intelligence agencies would use it.

  2. When I found it, I thought it was pretty cool too.
    The trick going forward is to do some hard thinking about what exactly it measures. I know it's something very cool. Just not yet completely certain about it is.

  3. Yes it could be a failed attempt and total bs but it seems pretty realistic. I think that if it is enhanced the government or maybe even the police department could use it. It is cool and scary. Cool in the fact that you can see what everyone is thinking or doing over the internet but creepy because you know people are watching you...

  4. Exactly! it only makes common sense that some people are happier than others at different times. It also makes sense that a society were most everyone is as happy as they can be would be safer and better than a society where that's not true.

    But then comes the science part. How do you measure happiness of a lot of people at the same time? These scientists have come up with one way. Other scientists are trying to figure out other ways.

    As for "cool and creepy." Nice phrase! I think there are lots of things about the internet are cool and creepy.

  5. I agree some are as happy as can be contrary to those who are depressed which i'm guessing is not a great percentage of the population.

    I found something while researching about hapiness on BBC. It is not the most recent piece of work but it is helpful in finding more out about the brain.


    And yes, i agree there are a lot of creepy things on the internet most having to do with the government and how they watch you

  6. Great find!

    Now that's exactly I think of when I say research.I blogged it and will explore it when I get a chance.