Posts tagged with "PLOS ONE"

The tweets of Canadians and Americans reflect national stereotypes

February 8, 2019

@JustinTrudeau’s tweets are more friendly and courteous than those posted regularly by @realDonaldTrump—and it turns out that both men mirror the personalities and communication styles of their constituents, based on findings of a study conducted.recently by McMaster University in Ontario.

The study, which examined differences in the language used in nearly 40 million tweets suggests that the national stereotypes about the population of each nation—for example, that Canadians tend to be polite and nice, while Americans are negative and assertive—are reflected on Twitter, even if those widely held (but fixed and oversimplified) beliefs aren’t completely accurate.

Linguistic experts from the school used Twitter in an attempt to better understand national identity on a mass scale and where stereotypes might originate. They isolated  the words, emoticons, and emojis used disproportionately on Twitter by individuals from each country.

The findings, published online last November in the journal PLOS ONE, suggest that national stereotypes are grounded –at least partially—in the words we choose. The work builds on earlier research from 2016 when the same team analyzed 3 million tweets.

“The most distinctive word choices of Americans and Canadians on Twitter paint a very accurate and familiar picture of the stereotypes we associate with people from these nations,” says Daniel Schmidtke, co-author of the study and a post-doctoral researcher at McMaster.

Canadians were far more positive on Twitter, using words such as: great, thanks, good, amazing, and happy For example, on February 5, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted, “We’re working hard to build infrastructure across the country to make life better for Canadians. Our investments are #BuildingCanada-and creating good, middle class jobs along the way.”

Americans tended to use more negative words like: hate, miss, mad, feel, swear, tired. For example, on February 5, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, “With Caravans marching through Mexico and toward our Country, Republicans must be prepared to do whatever is necessary for STRONG Border Security. Dems do nothing. If there is no Wall, there no Security. Human Trafficking, Drugs and Criminals of all dimensions – KEEP OUT!”

Americans preferred emojis, whereas Canadians preferred emoticons. Americans also used more netspeak like ‘lol’, ‘idk’, and ‘af’.

“It’s tempting to think that Canadians tweet more nicely than Americans because they really are more nice than Americans,” says Bryor Snefjella, the lead author of the study and a graduate student in the Reading Lab in McMaster’s Department of Linguistics and Languages, who was supervised by another co-author of the study, Associate Professor Victor Kuperman.

“But when we put all the data together, it suggests that something more complicated is happening,” he says.

The wrinkle is that other studies which have surveyed large numbers of Canadians and Americans have consistently shown that such national stereotypes are not accurate. There isn’t any hard evidence to support that an average American’s and average Canadian’s personality traits are different.

“The Twitter behavior we observe doesn’t actually reflect the real underlying personality profile of an average American or Canadian,” says Schmidtke.

To explore further, they exposed study participants to the most typical words and emojis from each nation. The participants were not told anything about how the words were chosen. They were then asked what the personality traits were of someone who often uses the most American and most Canadian words and emojis.

The results? Someone who uses very Canadian words has a personality matching the stereotype of a Canadian, and someone who uses very American words has a personality matching the stereotype of an American.

The research team argues that their results show an identity construction strategy in action: Canadians and Americans may create their national character stereotype through their language use.

In future, researchers hope to compare other stereotypes between people in different sets of countries.

Research contact: vickup@mcmaster.ca

The ‘real dirt’ on your money

January 15, 2018

While estimates vary, more Americans than ever before are germaphobes—people for whom a handshake may be a risky transaction, to be counteracted immediately by hand washing or hand sanitizing. Indeed, according to an article by The Free Dictionary, 42% of Millennials, 27% of Generation Xers and 21% of Baby Boomers fear exposure to germs.

Perhaps the most famous germaphobe at the moment is President Donald Trump, who has admitted to avoiding “contamination” by using a straw to drink out of a glass and preferring not to shake hands, when possible.  According to results of a recent study, maybe the POTUS, who says he is a billionaire, also should fear money.

Covered by Time magazine in late 2017, the findings of the study add to a growing body of research that has established that paper money can harbor thousands of microbes from every environment it touches—whether that’s someone’s fingers, a waiter’s apron, a vending machine or the dingy area under someone’s mattress.

During the course of the study, first published in the journal PLOS ONE last April, researchers swabbed $1 bills from a bank in New York City to see what was growing and subsisting on paper currency. They found hundreds of species of microorganisms. The most abundant were ones that cause acne, as well as plenty of harmless skin bacteria. They also identified vaginal bacteria, microbes from mouths, DNA from pets and viruses.

Other research has shown that some bank notes and coins are home to pathogens such as E. coli, salmonella and staphylococcus aureus, which can lead to serious illness.

Cash also is often streaked with drugs, according to the Journal of Analytical Toxicology. In a study of ten $1 bills from cities nationwide, nearly 80% of them showed traces of cocaine.

What’s more, the environment of paper money is welcoming to whatever is going around. The $1 bill is 75% cotton and 25% linen, according to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing—which offers a soft environment into which microbes can settle.

However, there is no reason to panic, whether you are a germaphobe or not: Cash doesn’t typically have the right temperature or moisture conditions to allow microbes to grow and proliferate. Its porous surface actually helps it hold on to most of the germs it’s carrying, so not many microbes wipe off on your hands—meaning money is not very good at transmitting diseases.

Experts say to wash your hands after touching currency and before eating.

There also has been some thought given to changing the materials that money is made with. Some research has shown that plastic polymer bank notes, like those used in Australia and Canada, are “cleaner” than American bills, according to the Time report.

Research contact: @AbigailAbrams