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Study: People go 'tribal' on Twitter

March 14, 2013 at 4:31 PM   |   Comments

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LONDON, March 14 (UPI) -- Social sites like Twitter lead people with a common character, occupation or interest to form "tribes" with their own language, British researchers say.

Scientists from Royal Holloway, University of London in collaboration with Princeton University have published a study of these Internet "tribe-like" communities and their distinctive vocabularies, producing a map of the groupings showing how they have vocations, politics, ethnicities and hobbies in common.

"This means that by looking at the language someone uses, it is possible to predict which community he or she is likely to belong to, with up to 80 percent accuracy," researcher John Bryden said in a Royal Holloway release Thursday.

"We searched for unusual words that are used a lot by one community, but relatively infrequently by the others. For example, one community often mentioned Justin Bieber, while another talked about President Obama."

The scientists analyzed Twitter postings using algorithms to look for differences in word use among individuals who tend to send messages to other members of the same community.

"Interestingly, just as people have varying regional accents, we also found that communities would misspell words in different ways," Royal Holloway researchers Vincent Jansen said.

"The Justin Bieber fans have a habit of ending words in 'ee', as in 'pleasee', while school teachers tend to use long words."

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