Rising use of emotional language like ‘feel’ and ‘believe’ has displaced rational thought

A new study suggests that we live in a post-truth era in which feelings trump facts, as language has become less rational and more emotional over the past 40 years.

A team of scientists has found that words such as “identify” and “infer” that were popular from the 1850s through the 1980s have since been replaced by human experience such as “feel” and “believe”.

The team also identified another major shift around 2007 with the birth of social media, when the use of emotion-laden language rose and words related to facts declined.

Although the motives behind this shift cannot be determined, researchers suggest that it may be rapid development in science and technology or tensions arising from changes in economic policies in the early 1980s.

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A team of scientists has found that words such as “identify” and “infer” that were popular from the 1850s through the 1980s have since been replaced by human experience such as “feel” and “believe.”

The study was conducted by scientists from Wageningen University and Research (WUR) and the University of Indiana who analyzed the use of millions of English and Spanish books published between 1850 and 2019, analyzing the use of 5,000 frequently used words.

“To see if the results might be specific to the language group of writers we used, we analyzed how word use has changed in the New York Times since 1850,” says the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Additionally, to check whether changes in the frequency of words used in books actually reflect interest in the corresponding concepts, we analyzed how a change in Google word searches correlates with a recent change in words used in books.

For emotional words, the team identified language related to faith, spirituality, prudence, and intuition, such as “imagination, compassion, forgiveness, and healing.”

The team also identified another major shift around 2007 with the birth of social media, when the use of emotion-laden language rose and words related to facts declined.

The team also identified another major shift around 2007 with the birth of social media, when the use of emotion-laden language rose and words related to facts declined.

There was also a shift from a collective language to an individual language, which the team identified by an increase in ‘I’, ‘I’, and ‘you’.

Lead author Marten Scheffer of WUR said in a statement: “The conclusion of the long-range pattern drivers seen from 1850 through 1980 necessarily remains speculative.

One possibility when it comes to trends from 1850 to 1980 is that rapid developments in science and technology and their social and economic benefits led to a rise in the stature of the scientific approach, which gradually permeated culture, society and its institutions starting from education to politics.

As argued early on by Max Weber, this may have led to a process of ‘disappointment’ in which the role of spirituality has diminished in modern, bureaucratic and secular societies.

The authors also suggest that there may be a link between changes in economic policies since the early 1980s, which may have been defended by rational arguments but whose benefits were not evenly distributed.

After the 1980s, another shift occurred when Facebook’s popularity soared.

The audience was exposed to events happening around the world that caused many to feel more emotionally involved, and thus people began to use more emotional language.

There was also a shift from a collective language to an individual language, which the team identified by an increase in

There was also a shift from a collective language to an individual language, which the team identified by an increase in ‘I’, ‘I’, and ‘you’. The study used language from millions of books in English and Spanish published between 1850 and 2019

The study provides examples of such events: for example, social media stimulated the Arab Spring, among others, by depicting regime atrocities, jihadist videos motivate terrorists by showing the heinous acts of American soldiers, and vegetarianism is promoted through Social media campaigns. Shedding light on horrific animal welfare issues.

Co-author Ingrid van de Limput of WUR notes, “Whatever the motives, our findings suggest that the phenomenon of post-truth is associated with a historical swing in the balance between our two primary modes of thinking: thinking versus intuition.

If true, it may be impossible to reverse the sea change we are referring to. Instead, societies may need to find a new balance, explicitly recognizing the importance of intuition and emotion, while at the same time making best use of the much-needed power of rationality and science to deal with subjects in their full complexity.

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