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Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2013 Jun;16(6):469-72. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2012.0535. Epub 2013 Apr 27.

A collective theory of happiness: words related to the word "happiness" in Swedish online newspapers.

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  • 1Centre for Ethics, Law and Mental Health (CELAM), University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.


It may be suggested that the representation of happiness in online media is collective in nature because it is a picture of happiness communicated by relatively few individuals to the masses. The present study is based on articles published in Swedish daily online newspapers in 2010; the data corpus comprises 1.5 million words. We investigated which words were most (un)common in articles containing the word "happiness" as compared with articles not containing this word. The results show that words related to people (by use of all relevant pronouns: you/me and us/them); important others (e.g., grandmother, mother); the Swedish royal wedding (e.g., Prince Daniel, Princess Victoria); and the FIFA World Cup (e.g., Zlatan, Argentina, Drogba) were highly recurrent in articles containing the word happiness. In contrast, words related to objects, such as money (e.g., millions, billions), bestselling gadgets (e.g., iPad, iPhone), and companies (e.g., Google, Windows), were predictive of contexts not recurrent with the word happiness. The results presented here are in accordance with findings in the happiness literature showing that relationships, not material things, are what make people happy. We suggest that our findings mirror a collective theory of happiness, that is, a shared picture or agreement, among members of a community, concerning what makes people happy. The fact that this representation is made public on such a large scale makes it collective in nature.

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