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Understanding people via `first-of-its-kind` Twitter study

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Washington: Telling about people and their situations from only 140 characters may not seem easy, but a new first-of-its-kind study is using 20 million tweets to understand the real-world situations.

To date, no research has tapped the vast data from social networking sites to study situations. This Florida Atlantic University research provides insights about the psychological experience of a typical workday or week.

Corresponding author David Serfass and co-author Ryne Sherman wanted to learn about the kinds of situations people experience across time and how gender and population density might affect situation experiences.

Findings showed large gender differences and significant differences between weekdays and weekends. However, they also showed that people in urban and rural areas experience situations that are, for the most part, psychologically similar.

Serfass noted that there are few compilations of data on human thought, behavior and emotions this vast, making Twitter an excellent medium for understanding human experience.

This new FAU research addresses two questions: (1) Is it possible to automatically and accurately extract situation characteristics from Tweets? (2) What can we learn about the situations people experience from their Tweets? In this first-of-its-kind study, Serfass and Sherman were able to develop a method for automatically extracting meaningful information about the situations people experience in their daily lives from Tweets.

Serfass notes that some of the findings that were both interesting and intuitive are that people experienced on average more positivity on the weekend and more negativity during the work week. People also experienced higher levels of duty during the “9 to 5” workday and more sociality in the evenings. In terms of gender differences, females experienced higher levels of mating and more emotional situations – both positive and negative – than males.

The study is published in PLOS ONE. (ANI)