The first large-scale study of sentiment in e-mail found a contrast between the emotional content in the e-mails (sent and received) of men and women. It’s mind-boggling how all this gender difference stuff holds up when you look for it.
Saif Mohammad and Tony Yang examined 32,000 work place e-mails for the Institute for Information Technology in Canada. The study employed psychologist Robert Plutchik’s rubric of the eight basic human emotions to analyze the e-mails: joy, sadness, anger, fear, trust, disgust, surprise, and anticipation.
And oh! the difference a gender makes. Women send sadness and joy to women, while their e-mails to men tend to contain trust and anticipation. Men send joy- and anticipation-oriented e-mails to women (e-mails from both genders to the opposite sex are more likely to involve anticipation), and e-mails about trust, sadness, and disgust to other dudes. Overall, men hear way more about trust, while women hear more about joy, and women are generally more cheerful than men.
This breakdown fits into some these from psychologists about gender and emoting in language — namely, that women’s language is aimed at building personal relationships, whereas men pursue confrontation to achieve a higher social position. But hold your Marsin’ and Venusin’ analysis, says Mohammad:
If our differences are making some people treat us differently — and negatively in some cases — then you want to know what’s going on here. My goal is not to make everybody the same, it’s not to propagate stereotypes, but to give people power to analyze their own data, and how they speak.
He hopes that this sort of tool, which he wants to expand for a Gmail app, will allow people to conduct some self-analysis. Examining e-mails over time can point to changes in your own emotions; while focusing on exchanges with others can help you pinpoint how you’re relating to individual people. Of course, this emotional analysis will also allow advertisers to know what’s up with you. Like maybe Seamless is tailoring its dessert ads to you when you’re e-mailing your best girlfriend about some sadness, as you always do.
Emotions are central to our life. There are implications in health, there are implications in social cultural aspects, there are implications in product marketing.
Sell my emotions to the highest bidder! But please expand the eight categories to some others to fit the contemporary communicator. I suggest: goofin’, cross, pretty, grumpy, ambivalent about where to get dinner, elongated, reluctantly delighted, iktsuarpok, and sleepy.