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Video: Life Extending Words - Society
The sentences we write and utter are like the roads we take. Some can become truly creative and … beneficial to health. All of us, of course, should develop and diversify our speech and increase the "density of language", because this saves from many diseases and prolongs our life.
Vocabulary as a diagnosis
The texts of the books of famous writers can tell a lot about their authors. And they even help to diagnose. Ian Lancashire, professor of English literature at the University of Toronto, has spent most of his life studying the texts of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton. He did, in fact, the same thing that medieval monks did, dissecting Bible texts and compiling a concordance - an alphabetical list of words with an indication of the contexts of their use. But not so long ago he turned his attention to his contemporaries.
Together with his colleagues, the scientist analyzed fourteen novels by Agatha Christie, written by her in the period from 34 to 82 years, or rather the first 50 thousand words of each work. As a result, it was found that the writer's vocabulary decreased with age. Thus, in the novel Elephants Can Remember, written in 1972, when Christie was 81 years old, the vocabulary was one-third poorer than the novel Destination Unknown, written eighteen years earlier. With age, the number of repetitive phrases and indefinite words ("anything", "something", "always", "thing") increased. All this allowed the researcher to suggest what was previously suspected - Agatha Christie developed Alzheimer's disease by old age.
The difference between a correct and almost correct word is the same as between lightning and the flickering of a firefly
Another scientist, Peter Garrad, has similarly researched Jackson's Dilemma, the latest book by master detective Iris Murdoch, and found similar indications. Unlike Christy, who was not formally diagnosed, Murdoch was diagnosed with Alzheimer's a year after the novel was published. Another study included both Christy and Murdoch and another famous writer, Phyllis Dorothy James. Analysis once again confirmed the hypothesis. Christie and Murdoch had a similar picture, and James, who died in 2014 at the age of 94, “of sound mind and memory,” wrote in the same way as decades earlier.
It is curious that the texts we write can not only tell about the development of the disease, but also prevent negative changes in the brain, and prolong our life. Many years of large-scale research led to this scientific discovery.
Back in 1930, the Mother Superior of the Notre Dame School Sisters in America ordered all new novices to write their autobiography. It was supposed to be short, no more than one page, and contain, in addition to the usual information, interesting and important moments from childhood. And it became the setting for one exciting study.
In 1986, a professor of neuroscience and his colleagues discovered that very bundle of autobiographies in the order's archives. The texts were written by the sisters at an average age of 23 and ended up in the hands of scholars 62 years later. Scientists decided to calculate the density of thoughts - a linguistic parameter meaning the average number of thoughts expressed per ten words.
The results were amazing. Snowdon found symptoms of Alzheimer's disease in the sisters with an idea density of 4.6 to 5.3, and did not find the disease at a density of 5.5 to 6.6. It turned out that a low density of ideas in a text written by a twenty-year-old person predicts the onset of Alzheimer's disease in 60 years with a probability of 80%!
David Snowdon and colleagues studied 180 autobiographies, while scientists counted the number of emotionally charged words. On average, each text contained about 500 words, of which 8.87 were emotional: 7.46 positive, 1.24 negative, and 0.17 neutral. The nuns who used the most positive words lived an average of 10.7 years longer than the sisters who used the fewest such epithets.
Fool old man Alzheimer
Is it possible that at the age of 18–20 a person already has a mindless disease in his brain that has been slowly developing for so many years? Thought density is a good indicator of IQ and has been proven by successful attempts to convert it to intelligence quotient (IQ). Linguistic abilities reflect the state of the brain and its ability to combat the inevitable consequences of aging. Science does not yet know exactly how it all works, but we will now try to draw practical conclusions from these studies.
Can we improve our brain health using our speech? This is a challenge we give ourselves, and our brains love challenges.
First of all, you need to work on your language. We should diversify speech by replacing indefinite words with precise ones. We can also enrich our vocabulary, replace fixed expressions. To understand new phrases and words, it is necessary to build new connections between brain neurons. This creates the so-called "cognitive reserve". By studying something, we physically enlarge our brain, and do not be afraid that it will not fit in the skull - with age it inexorably decreases in size.
Use more adverbs, adjectives and connect your thoughts. This may be contrary to the "gold standard" of style, which encourages us to write in short phrases containing one thought. But who knows, maybe these standards make us feeble-minded?
Speak and write more positive words. These are words that, in Snowdon's study, belonged to the following categories: happiness, interest, love, hope, gratitude, satisfaction, fulfillment, relief, entertainment, and others.
The results showed that for every 1% increase in positive statements, there is a 1.4% decrease in mortality. So you shouldn't tightly pack all emotionally charged words in one sentence. Better to increase the percentage of positive phrases.
The world around us is beautiful, and if our speech depends on how the brain works, then by improving our language, we can extend our fascinating adventure on Earth (the density of thought of this wish, by the way, is 6.36 points).
Do you want to learn how to calculate the density of your own thoughts? Let's look at an example from a study by David Snowdon. Here is the beginning of the autobiography of a seventeen-year-old girl: "I was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin on May 24, 1913 and was baptized at St. James's Church."
Number of thoughts:
1) I was born
2) I was born in Eau Claire
3) I was born on May 24, 1913
4) I was baptized
5) I was baptized in the church
6) I was baptized in the church of St. James
7) I was born … and was baptized
The density of thoughts is calculated as follows:
7 thoughts are divided into 16 words of the sentence, and the result is multiplied by 10. As a result, the density is 4.4 thoughts per 10 words.
Interestingly, you can completely change the density of thoughts and thereby extend your life.
Now you can measure the density of thought using a computer. Let's check a few phrases (since the program works in English, phrases are selected that translate without losing words):
“The night was dark. We moved slowly. " The density of thought is 5. Not bad: laconic and to the point.
We know that if you combine phrases into one sentence, it will increase the density.
"The night was dark and we moved slowly." The union "and" immediately added points to us. The density is already 5.71. Let's add a few more adverbs, add the phrase:
"The night was dark, and we moved slowly and gracefully like cats." The density immediately jumped to 6.36! We can go on and on, but this is already an excellent result!
It's like a trick to deliberately increase the density of your thoughts, but this trick really works.