Jeremy Frimer, Karl Aquino, Jochen E. Gebauer, Luke Zhu, Harrison Oakes
A decline in prosocial language helps explain public disapproval of the U.S. Congress

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2015: 112, issue 21, pp. 6591-6594
ISSN: 1091-6490 (online)

Talking about helping others makes a person seem warm and leads to social approval. This work examines the real world consequences of this basic, social-cognitive phenomenon by examining whether record-low levels of public approval of the US Congress may, in part, be a product of declining use of prosocial language during Congressional debates. A text analysis of all 124 million words spoken in the House of Representatives between 1996 and 2014 found that declining levels of prosocial language strongly predicted public disapproval of Congress 6 mo later. Warm, prosocial language still predicted public approval when removing the effects of societal and global factors (e.g., the September 11 attacks) and Congressional efficacy (e.g., passing bills), suggesting that prosocial language has an independent, direct effect on social approval.