Does a Nation’s Mood Lurk in Its Songs and Blogs?

From The New York Times:

Mind Neither music historians nor hard-core metal fans will gasp to learn that the band Staind, with songs like “Painful” and “Mudshovel,” tends to go far more negative in its lyrics than did the heavyweight of soul, Luther Vandross, whose many hits included “The Closer I Get to You.” Or that Slayer (“Raining Blood”) paints darker word pictures than Faith Evans (“I’ll Be Missing You”).

Yet who knew that Slayer was about 30 percent more negative than Mr. Vandross — and that such calculations might say something about the mood of the country? In a new paper, a pair of statisticians at the University of Vermont argue that linguistic analysis — not just of song lyrics but of blogs and speeches — could add a new and valuable dimension to a growing area of mass psychology: the determination of national well-being. “We argue that you can use this data as a kind of remote sensor of well-being,” said Peter Sheridan Dodds, a co-author of the new paper, with Christopher M. Danforth; both are in the department of mathematics and statistics.

More here.