National character stereotypes mirror language use: A study of Canadian and American tweets


National character stereotypes, or beliefs about the personality characteristics of the members of a nation, present a paradox. Such stereotypes have been argued to not be grounded in the actual personality traits of members of nations, yet they are also prolific and reliable. Stereotypes of Canadians and Americans exemplify the paradox; people in both nations strongly believe that the personality profiles of typical Canadians and Americans diverge, yet aggregated self-reports of personality profiles of Canadians and Americans show no reliable differences. We present evidence that the linguistic behavior of nations mirrors national character stereotypes. Utilizing 40 million tweets from the microblogging platform Twitter, in Study 1A we quantify the words and emojis diagnostic of Canadians and Americans. In Study 1B we explore the positivity of national language use. In Studies 2A and 2B, we present the 120 most nationally diagnostic words and emojis of each nation to naive participants, and ask them to assess personality of a hypothetical person who uses either diagnostically Canadian or American words and emojis. Personality profiles derived from the diagnostic words of each nation bear close resemblance to national character stereotypes. We therefore propose that national character stereotypes may be partially grounded in the collective linguistic behaviour of nations.

In PLoS ONE, 13(11): e0206188.