Have you ever been stressed before? I’m certain we all have been at one point in time. However our mannerisms when we are stressed varies from one individual to another. I tend to become uncoordinated in action and speech when I’m stressed. But I don’t think I remember the words I say a lot when stressed.
There are some words which, when spoken frequently, might indicate that you are stressed, a new US study has found.
According to a study led by researchers at the University of Arizona, people tend to use a high prevalence of adverbs such as “so”, “very” and “really” in speech when they are stressed.
The researchers also identified that stressed people tend to talk less overall, compared to those who aren’t feeling under pressure.
To monitor how stress is reflected in language, the researchers analysed the speech patterns of 143 volunteers who agreed to wear audio recorders for two days. These recorders turned on and recorded what participants were saying at random intervals.
Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona, subsequently transcribed and studied the recordings, listening out for any repeated words and expressions. He was particularly interested in the volunteers’ use of pronouns and adjectives.
“By themselves they don’t have any meaning, but they clarify what’s going on,” Mehl told Nature.
Next, he and a team of genomicists analysed participants’ psychological stress levels by looking at the gene expression in their white blood cells.
The term ‘gene expression’ refers to the process by which information contained within a gene is used or ‘expressed’ in order to become useful to the body. Gene expression changes in response to stress.
In addition to finding that stressed participants were more likely to use adverbs, they also found that they were less likely to use third-person plural pronouns such as “their” and “they”.
This might be due to the fact that people tend to focus on themselves when they feel under pressure, rather than thinking about those around them, the researchers suggested.
They concluded that speech patterns were a better indicator of stress levels than a volunteer’s personal assessment.While much research has been conducted on the subject of stress, linking it to speech patterns is a relatively new approach, explains David Creswell, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Creswell said that the study “holds tremendous promise” for providing a deeper understanding into how psychological pressures can impact our health”, reports Nature.
The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United State of America.