Giving Weight to Words

The NY Times recently published an article about a new computer program, Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count, that can determine a speaker's gender, physical and mental health, personality, and more, by counting that speaker's words. More "practical" applications of the program are analyzing terrorist communications and identifying authors of anonymous blogs.

"He Counts Your Words (Even Those Pronouns)"

"James W. Pennebaker’s interest in word counting began more than 20 years ago, when he did several studies suggesting that people who talked about traumatic experiences tended to be physically healthier than those who kept such experiences secret. He wondered how much could be learned by looking at every single word people used — even the tiny ones, the I’s and you’s, a’s and the’s.

"That led Dr. Pennebaker, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, down a winding path that has taken him from Beatles lyrics (John Lennon's songs have more 'negative emotion' words than Paul McCartney's) all the way to terrorist communications. By counting the different kinds of words a person says, he is breaking new linguistic ground and leading a resurgent interest in text analysis." Read More >>
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  1. Anonymous11:25 PM

    well... how to account for something written by a male, but posted by a female? can this thing figure out collusion?

  2. good point. the whole thing seems suspect to me...
    even the idea of categorizing what is 'positive' and 'negative'...
    it seems to be a limiting categorization process rather than one that is useful.

  3. Anonymous10:46 PM

    yes! labels of morality - of good and bad - can always vary depending on perspective. and who gets to decide on the positive and negative here anyway? the corporate world? the government? religious institutions? a vote?

  4. Anonymous9:15 PM

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