Social Mood Conference  |  Socionomics Foundation

By Euan Wilson | Excerpted from the February 2013 Socionomist


Recent studies have linked shifts in the frequency of swearing to political and economic changes. A July 2014 study discovered a spike in chief executive officers’ use of profanity in conference calls after the 2007-2009 recession. And a 2012 report found that the incidence of swearing on Twitter predicted protests during Iran’s Green Movement.

In this article, socionomist Euan Wilson reveals the instigator behind both Iran’s spike in Twitter swear words during the movement and its protests: A negative social mood. Here’s an excerpt of the February 2013 article.

…RAND’s report, “Using Social Media to Gauge Iranian Public Opinion and Mood After the 2009 Election,” was authored by Sara Beth Elson, Douglas Yeung, Parisa Roshan, S.R. Bohandy and Alireza Nader. The authors used “Linguistic Inquiry and Wordcount,” (LIWC, pronounced “Luke”) to examine language use in Iranian tweets. They looked at emotion-laden words, such as swearing, anxiety words and positive-emotion words. The authors then charted each of these expressions and compared them with major events in Iran in the months following the June 2009 election. They found that the incidence of swearing did indeed predict protests in the country.

It is an intriguing result, but is it socionomic? To find out, we compared the authors’ swearing graph to the Iranian stock market. We observe that negatively trending mood predates both the swearing increases and the protests that followed (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1

For instance, consider July 30, 2009. On that day, the Iranian government announced plans to crack down on mourners protesting the violent death of a protester. Despite the government action, swearing continued to decline through the immediate period. Why? Because Iranian mood, as illustrated by Iran’s stock market, was trending positively. A similar situation occurred around October 7. A huge decline in swearing occurred despite an unprecedented crackdown on protests. Again, throughout that period, Iranian social mood was on the rise. …

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In the remainder of this two-page article, author Euan Wilson explains why an increasingly negative social mood prompts a rise in swearing. Wilson also explores social media as a metric of collective emotions and social mood, and whether social mood can transmit across the world.

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