THE WORDS SAY IT ALL

Giving the game away has always been through the way we speak, the words we use and the life we lead. It seems that science can also help us discover aspects of who we are through our unwittingly spilling the beans without us realising it.

On the rare occasions when teenagers stop talking about themselves they are either swearing or using baffling shibboleths such as ‘bae’. Men normally rabbit on about football, beer and politics whereas women talk about hair, romance and use little heart symbols. Conservatives are obsessed with immigration and spend a lot of their time angling for personal power while liberals fret about human rights and global warming.

The thing about theses stereotypes, a study suggests, is that they are largely true – at least on Twitter. Scientists have found that people can judge a tweeter’s gender, approximate age and broad political opinion with more than 75 per cent accuracy, solely from the words that they use. Some of these words are miserably predictable. For women, they are terms such as ‘cute’, ‘little’, ‘shopping’ and ‘husband’. Men have ‘police’, ‘players’, ‘football’, ‘beer’ and ‘against’. The study also hints at grammatical divides. Older users are more likely to write ‘the’, ‘of’, ‘from’ and ‘for’.

Psychologists, led by a team at the University of Pennsylvania, drafted in 2,741 Americans to rate anonymised tweets by 7,296 authors. The volunteers were told to categorise tweets according to whether they thought they had been written by men or women, younger or older people, conservative or liberal and users with or without university degrees.

Jordan Carpenter, who led the study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science said that on the whole they did a fairly respectable job. Sometimes, however, the stereotypes were misleading. ‘Women were inaccurately perceived to be men if they talked about “tech”, “business” or the “news”,’ Dr Carpenter said. ‘Men were inaccurately perceived to be women if they talked about “family” or were positive. In the past, social psychologists dismissed our preconceptions about different groups as not only harmful, but wrong. Over the past few decades, however, the accuracy of stereotypes has become one of the clearest and most consistent findings in the field.’
Dr Carpenter believes that this makes sense. People use mental shortcuts thousands of times a day to avoid having to deal with the complexity of the world around them and generally they work pretty well. ‘From one perspective stereotypes are more useful as the diversity of people we interact with increases,’

Dr Carpenter said. ‘If I am to draw accurate conclusions at all the best place to start is with the associations I’ve learned about that group. In other words, stereotypes. But at the same time, this makes it easy to be complacent about my stereotypes and to not think twice about whether or not I using them wisely.’

Here is a lexicon of giving the game away.

Women: ‘love’, ‘hair’, ‘my husband’, ‘chocolate’, ‘gorgeous’, ‘make-up’, ‘dinner’, ‘excited’.

Men: ‘Beer’, ‘game’, ‘government’, ‘fantasy’, ‘political’, ‘data’, ‘football’.

Under 24s: ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘bitch’, ‘my life’, ‘crying’, ‘friends’, ‘sleep’, ‘bae’.

Over 24s: ‘news’, ‘house’, ‘Federal’, ‘via’, ‘candidates’, ‘poverty’, ‘awesome’, ‘jobs’, ‘park’, ‘families’.

Conservatives: ‘Moslems’, ‘defence’,’ Christ’, ‘MSM’, ‘evil’, ‘babies’, ‘ISIS’, ‘illegal’, ‘liberal’.

Liberals: ‘Violence’, ‘action’, ‘science’, ‘planet’, ‘African’, ‘marijuana’.
Dig that if you want to…

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