Which words predict outstanding performance?


This study applied word count strategies developed by expressive writing researchers to examine whether the words students use to describe and reflect on their field practicum experiences would predict practicum supervisors’ ratings of their performance. The weekly journals of 66 students who completed a practicum at a mental health or school setting were analyzed using a computerized text-analysis program. As expected, positive emotion words and “insight” words were positively correlated with almost all dimensions of evaluation, with the exception of organizational ability, and “we” words were associated with dimensions that focused on interpersonal relations. These findings further support the view that positive emotion words and “insight” words are powerful markers of cognitive broadening and behavioral flexibility and that “we” words index feelings of affiliation and belonging. As one might expect, there was an increase in “we” words and a decrease in “anxiety” words over the course of the internship.

Source: “Words that predict outstanding performance” from Journal of Research in Personality, Volume 43, Issue 3, June 2009, Pages 528-531

Along the same lines, we are able to make accurate judgments about an author’s personality just by reading their work. Word choice can communicate whether you’re depressed, suicidal or lying.

Words matter. They shape our thoughts. When crime is described as a “beast” people favor police and jails, when it’s a “virus” the public supports social reform.

And they can affect us much more literally and viscerally than we realize; words related to heat can increase aggression.

Choose your words carefully today.

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