The Language of Religious Affiliation

The Language of Religious Affiliation

By
David B. Yaden, Johannes C. Eichstaedt, Margaret L. Kern, Laura K. Smith, Anneke Buffone, David J. Stillwell, Michal Kosinski, Lyle H. Ungar, Martin E. P. Seligman, H. Andrew Schwartz
Social Psychological and Personality Science (forthcoming). August
22, 2017

Religious affiliation is an important identifying characteristic for many individuals and relates to numerous life outcomes including health, well-being, policy positions, and cognitive style. Using methods from computational linguistics, we examined language from 12,815 Facebook users in the United States and United Kingdom who indicated their religious affiliation. Religious individuals used more positive emotion words (β = .278, p < .0001) and social themes such as family (β = .242, p < .0001), while nonreligious people expressed more negative emotions like anger (β = −.427, p < .0001) and categories related to cognitive processes, like tentativeness (β = −.153, p < .0001). Nonreligious individuals also used more themes related to the body (β = −.265, p < .0001) and death (β = −.247, p < .0001). The findings offer directions for future research on religious affiliation, specifically in terms of social, emotional, and cognitive differences.