Sound of happiness
Words can obviously affect the way we feel. I recently came across an article that actually puts more emphasis on the individual letters in a given word rather than the meaning as a whole. The main take away from researchers in Germany was the power of vowels.
During the research they wired up participants to measure changes in their facial muscles linked with smiling and frowning. Out of all the letters it was found that the letter ‘i’ was the most positive, particular a long ‘i’. To me this seems obvious when we think of the meaning of the letter its self, for it is also a word really.
The letter with the most negative connotations was ‘o’, especially a long closed ‘o’ sound.. This is associated with an expression of disappointment to me which then makes sense, even from just a theory point of view.
Professors Rummer and Grice were the researchers conducting the series of experiments. The first of which asked subjects to watch film clips designed to put them in a positive or negative mood. Afterwards asking them to make up ten artificial words themselves which where then spoken out loud to researchers.
The second experiment was needed to determine whether the different emotional quality of the long ‘i’ and ‘o’ vowels could be traced back to facial muscle movements associated with their articulation. in other words was it just the way you say ‘i’ that prompted ‘happier’ muscle groups than the ‘o’.
The main muscle linked to smiling is the zygomaticus when subjects articulated the ‘i’ sound. The orbicularis oris muscle is triggered when subjects articulated the ‘o’ sound. Subjects were asked to sound out the ‘i’ sound while watching a cartoons and then repeat the cartoon sounding the ‘o’.
The test subjects producing the ‘i’ sounds found the same cartoons significantly more amusing than those producing the ‘o’ sounds instead.
The conclude that the tendency for ‘i’ sounds to occur in positively charged words, such as ‘like’, and for ‘o’ sounds to occur in negatively charged words, such as ‘alone’, in many languages appears to be linked to the corresponding use of facial muscles. This is very interesting from the sound of the vowels and the build up of language to communicate better with body language.
The results were published in Emotion, the journal of the American Psychological Association.
This is why the sound of happiness is better than overjoyed.