Positive Emotion Word Use and Longevity in Famous Deceased Psychologists

Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

Objective: This study examined whether specific types of positive and negative emotional words used in the autobiographies of well-known deceased psychologists were associated with longevity. Methods: For each of the 88 psychologists, the percent of emotional words used in writing was calculated and categorized by valence (positive or negative) and arousal (activated [e.g., lively, anxious] or not activated [e.g., calm, drowsy]) based on existing emotion scales and models of emotion categorization. Results: After controlling for sex, year of publication, health (based on disclosed illness in autobiography), native language, and year of birth, the use of more activated positive emotional words (e.g., lively, vigorous, attentive, humorous) was associated with increased longevity. Negative terms (e.g., angry, afraid, drowsy, sluggish) and unactivated positive terms (e.g., peaceful, calm) were not related to longevity. The association of activated positive emotions with longevity was also independent of words indicative of social integration, optimism, and the other affect/activation categories. Conclusions: Results indicate that in writing, not every type of emotion correlates with longevity and that there may be value to considering different categories beyond emotional valence in health relevant outcomes.




PMID: 21928902


Published In

Health Psychology, 31, 3, 297-305.