You can’t hide from Twitter.
A new study from the University of London suggests Americans may give away pieces their political allegiance just by the words they use on the social media platform.
The findings give researchers more confidence, they say, in using Twitter data for understanding human psychology.
“Open social media provides a huge amount of data for use in understanding offline behaviour,” said co-author of the study Matthew Purver in a statement.
Purver and his colleague Karolina Sylwester relied on nearly one million tweets from 10,000 users who followed either Republican or Democrat party Twitter accounts (but not both).
They sorted tweets by word choice and tweet subject.
Liberals, they found, were more likely to:
- feature swear words in their tweets
- make reference to “me” or “I”
- express positive emotions
- tweet about international news
Conservatives, meanwhile were more likely to:
- be more group-minded, using “we” or “us”
- express religiosity
- discuss authority figures and institutions, like God and the Senate
- use the word “the”
Purver and Sylwester argue the last distinction — using “the” — actually comes from the third trait of conservatives being more likely to discuss authority figures.
While only 14% of the adult population in the US uses Twitter, the researchers claim their findings are still useful for understanding how language, as cognitive scientist Steven Pinker has said, can be a window into the mind.
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