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Sentiment Scale Reveals Which Words Pack the Most Punch

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For world leaders, journalists, CEOs, or anyone who has ever had to explain a dicey report card, word selection can have an enormous impact on how a message is perceived.

Does it make any difference whether a presentation went quite good versus pretty good, or if an earnings report is described as awful versus poor? According to a new survey from YouGov, word sentiment isn’t as cut-and-dry as one would expect.

The United States of Sentiment

Certain words more precisely communicate positive and negative feelings.

Interestingly, very bad edges out words like abysmal and dreadful as the most conclusively negative phrase for those survey respondents based in the United States.

Sentiment scale for U.S. poll

On the positive end of the spectrum, perfect was most conclusively positive term.

Effective Words: U.K. Edition

The version of the survey conducted in the United Kingdom reveals interesting differences in how words are perceived.

Word sentiment UK version

In the U.K. visualization, words have a more defined “hump”, meaning that people tended to agreed on where each word fell on the 10-point scale. As well, there appears to be more mutually agreed upon nuance. The U.S. results showed less agreement on words that weren’t on the extreme ends of the sentiment spectrum.

In both regions, the word average was nearly dead-center on the graph and had the highest percentage of people agreeing on its score.

Quantifying Language

It’s human nature to attempt to tame complexity and bring order to chaos. Language, with its fluidity and openness to interpretation, has always presented a tempting challenge.

To this end, researchers have developed lists that ascribe a sentiment score to specific words. Using data mining techniques, it’s possible to gauge the tone of a piece of writing.

One compelling example of this is a project by data analyst, Susan Li, who ran a sentiment analysis on Warren Buffett’s annual shareholder letters, and found that the majority of the letters had a positive tone.

buffett letters sentiment analysis

The one outlier? 2001, which was a challenging year for a number of reasons.

As these techniques continue to evolve, we are likely to better understand why one person’s abysmal is another person’s very bad.

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Misc

29 Psychological Tricks To Make You Buy More

This graphic looks at 29 different psychological tricks that marketers use to try and influence consumer behavior.

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29 Psychological Tricks To Make You Buy More

Ever suffered from buyer’s remorse? You’re not alone.

According to a recent survey, only 5% of people have never felt guilty about buying something. That means the majority of us, at some point in our lives, have regretted a purchase.

But consumers aren’t necessarily only to blame for impulse buys. After all, we’re constantly bombarded with advertisements and marketing tactics specifically tailored to try and get us to spend more money.

Today’s graphic by TitleMax explains 29 different psychological tactics that marketers try to get consumers to buy more.

Tricks are for Marketers

While this list isn’t exhaustive, it provides some key examples of the ways that marketers are attempting to influence your subconscious mind.

We noticed some high-level trends among the 29 tactics, which we compiled into four overarching sections:

  • Visual Pricing Tricks
    These tricks aim to intentionally minimize the appearance of the price, so it’s more palatable to consumers. For instance, a store will price something at $9.99 instead of $10.00, or label a product as “buy-one-get-one” rather than 50% off.
  • Intentional Language Tricks
    It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Making products seem costly to manufacture, offering exclusivity, and using words associated with small amounts fall under this category. These tricks use semantics to position a product in an appealing way.
  • Brick-and-Mortar Tricks
    A store’s layout is less arbitrary than you may realize. Having a bright and colorful entrance, playing calm and slow music, and putting the essential items at the back of the store are a few tactics that fall into this section. These tricks use displays and product placement to influence consumer behavior.
  • Urgency Tricks
    A false sense of urgency and phase-out discounts are included in this category. If a consumer believes they might miss out on a deal, they’re more likely to buy.

The Theories in Practice

While most retailers are guilty of using at least a few of these tactics, several big companies are notorious for their use of psychological tricks to boost sales.

For instance, Ikea is well known for its confusing, maze-like layout. This is no accident, as an Ikea store’s architecture is designed specifically to maximize product exposure—it’s mastered what’s called the Gruen effect, a term named after architect Victor Gruen, whose elaborate displays were proven to convert browsers into buyers.

Another example is Walmart’s rollback pricing, which uses visual contrast to make the sale price more appealing. It’s clearly served the company well—in 2019, Walmart made $524 billion in revenue, making it the world’s largest retailer.

Costco uses a few tactics on the list, but one it’s notorious for is putting fresh produce in the back of the store. That means customers need to pass through the electronics, clothing, and household goods sections before they can get to the necessities.

While the above tactics are in a gray area, other tricks are flat out dishonest. Makeup brand Sunday Riley was caught writing fake Sephora reviews to boost sales. Employees were encouraged to write outstanding reviews for the company, and the CEO even provided instructions on how to avoid getting caught.

The Influencer Era

As consumers become aware of certain marketing tactics, retailers are forced to switch up their game in order to remain effective.

A relatively recent phenomenon is influencer marketing, which is when brands partner with vloggers or influencers to endorse a product. And these partnerships tend to work—a recent survey revealed that 40% of people have purchased something based on an influencer’s recommendation.

But how long will influencer marketing—or any of these tactics—stay effective? Some of the more subtle pricing tactics might stay relevant for longer, but it’s unlikely that all of these tricks will stand the test of time.

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Green

Understanding How the Air Quality Index Works

This graphic breaks down how the air quality index is measured, and looks at which regions are hardest hit by atmospheric pollution and wildfires.

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how air quality works

Understanding How the Air Quality Index Works

Air quality levels have received a lot of attention in recent months.

In the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns, many places reported a marked increase in air quality. Northern India captured the world’s attention when it was reported that the Himalayan mountain range was visible for the first time in decades.

On the flipside, later in the summer, wildfires swept over the Pacific Northwest and California, blanketing entire regions with a thick shroud of smoke that spanned hundreds of miles.

How is air quality measured, and what goes into the health scores we see?

Measuring the Air Quality Index

When we see that air quality is “good” or “unhealthy”, those public health categories are derived from the Air Quality Index (AQI).

In the U.S., the AQI is calculated using four major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act:

  • Ground-level ozone
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Particle pollution, also known as particulate matter

Some countries have a slightly different way of calculating their scores. For example, India also measures levels of ammonia and lead in the air.

To make these readings more accessible, the AQI has a scoring system that runs from 0 to 500, using data collected from air monitoring stations in cities around the world. Scores below 50 are considered good, with very little impact to human health. The higher the score gets, the worse the air quality is.

To make communicating potential health risks to the public even easier, ranges of scores have been organized into descriptive categories.

AQI Score RangeAQI CategoryPM2.5 (μg/m³)Health Risks
0-50Good0-12.0Air quality is satisfactory and poses little or no risk.
51-100Moderate12.1-35.4Sensitive individuals should avoid outdoor activity.
101-150Unhealthy35.5-55.4General public and sensitive individuals in particular are
at risk to experience irritation and respiratory problems.
151-200Unhealthy55.5-150.4Increased likelihood of adverse effects and aggravation
to the heart and lungs among general public.
201-300Very Unhealthy150.5-250.4General public will be noticeably affected.
Sensitive groups should restrict outdoor activities.
301+Hazardous250.5+General public is at high risk to experience strong
irritations and adverse health effects. Everyone
should avoid outdoor activities.

Particulate Matter

While all the forms of atmospheric pollution are a cause for concern, it’s the smaller 2.5μm particles that get the most attention. For one, we can see visible evidence in the form of haze and smoke when PM2.5 levels increase. As well, these fine particles have a much easier time entering our bodies via breathing.

There are a number of factors that can increase the concentration of a region’s particulate matter. Some common examples include:

  • Coal-fired power stations
  • Cooking stoves (Many people around the world burn organic material for cooking and heating)
  • Smoke from wildfires and slash-and-burn land clearing

Wildfires and Air Quality

Air quality scores can fluctuate a lot from season to season. For example, regions that are reliant on coal for power generation tend to see AQI score spikes during peak periods.

One of the biggest fluctuations occurs during wildfire season, when places that typically have scores in the “good” category can see scores reach unsafe levels. In 2020, Eastern Australia and the West Coast of the U.S. both saw massive drops in air quality during their respective wildfire seasons.

Air quality in wildfire season

Luckily, while these types of fluctuations are extreme, they are also temporary.

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