Movie subtitles in Arabic, Twitter feeds in Korean, the famously dark literature of Russia, websites in Chinese, music lyrics in English, and even the war-torn pages of the New York Times -- the researchers found that these, and probably all human languages, skew toward the use of happy words.

"We looked at 10 languages and in every source we looked at, people use more positive words than negative ones," said mathematician Peter Dodds who co-led the study.

In 1969, two psychologists at the University of Illinois proposed what they called the Pollyanna Hypothesis - the idea that there is a universal human tendency to use positive words more frequently than negative ones.

"Put even more simply," they wrote, "humans tend to look on (and talk about) the bright side of life."It was a speculation that has provoked debate ever since.

The study appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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