A study comparing the tweets five prominent Christians and five prominent atheists indicate that the Christians are more cheerful in their everyday language.
Scouring nearly two million tweets from followers of five Christian leaders and five well-known atheists, a research team led by University of Illinois psychologist Ryan Ritter found that “Christians express more happiness than atheists in everyday language.”
“Our results reveal important psychological differences between believers and nonbelievers, and also suggest reasons why believers may be happier than nonbelievers in general,” the researchers write in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Ritter and his colleagues analyzed more than 877,000 tweets from 7,557 Christians, and more than one million tweets from 8,716 atheists. The believers were followers of one or more of five major Christian public figures (Pope Benedict, Dinesh D’Souza, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, or Rick Warren); the non-believers followed one of more of five well-known atheists (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Monica Salcedo, and Michael Shermer).
So whose tweets were happier? Yup, that’s right.
In their tweets, Christians expressed more positive emotions, and fewer negative ones, than their atheist counterparts. In contrast, the non-believers tended to use “a more analytical thinking style,” which, the researchers write, is “associated with less happiness.”
“Christian followers were more likely to use insight words characterized by certainty and emotion, whereas atheist followers were more likely to use insight words characterized by skepticism and analysis,” they report. “The percentage of words expressing certainty was higher among Christian tweets than atheist tweets.”
In addition, “Christians talked more about social processes than atheists, which was in turn associated with more happiness,” the researchers write. “On average, 9.36 percent of words used by Christian followers were related to social processes, compared to 8.08 percent among atheist followers. [This is] consistent with the hypothesis that religion promotes social support and social connectivity.”