Generational Differences in the Use of Emotional Words
MetadataShow full item record
SubjectGreek language -- Age differences; Language in families; Emotive (Linguistics); Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
Generational Differences in Emotional Word Use Researchers have demonstrated that culture plays an important role in the interpretation of emotions. Extending the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis to emotions would suggest that the use of emotion words and their meaning would be intimately dependent on the culture and worldview of a group. The purpose of this study was to extend the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis to examine emotion word use and meaning across 5 different U. S. generations: Digital Natives (1995-present), Millenials (1984-1994), Generation X (1965-1980), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), and the Silent Generation (1930-1946). Each cohort of individuals born in the same time frame share common experiences that influence how they see the world and that shape their interpretations of it. For example, 9/11 was a defining moment for Millenials. One hundred four participants representing these 5 generations were asked to describe slang words they used to express the six basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, surprise, and anger. Interview responses were qualitatively coded and results showed that slang words used to describe emotional feelings varied across the different generations. For example, in describing happiness, the Silent Generation used the phrase "happy as a lark"; the baby boomers used "cool", "awesome", and "holy shit"; Generation X used "rad", "stoked", and "happy go lucky"; Millenials used "lit", "fucking awesome," and "wavy"; and Digital Natives used "LOL" and "OMG". Major themes that emerged included: 1) the Silent Generation reported using the least slang words and the most positive words, 2) media such as television, music, and technology influenced the emotion words used (e.g., Generation X used "dynamite"), 3) more profanity was used in the Baby Boomer and Generation X, 4) more recent generations, like Millennials and Digital Natives, used more religious profanity, and 5) Digital Natives used more abbreviations like "OMG". The bond that exists among individuals in a generational cohort is manifested in the shared lexicon that they use to describe their emotional experiences which is derived from the cultural and media influences around them. These results suggest that generational experiences lead to variations in emotional expression and may provide insight into how emotion regulation may vary across generations.