The promotion of a bright future and the prevention of a dark future: Time anchored incitements in news articles and facebook's status updates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Research suggests that humans have the tendency to increase the valence of events when these are imagined to happen in the future, but to decrease the valence when the same events are imagined to happen in the past. This line of research, however, has mostly been conducted by asking participants to value imagined, yet probable, events. Our aim was to re-examine this time-valence asymmetry using real-life data: a Reuter's news and a Facebook status updates corpus. Method: We organized the Reuter news (120,000,000 words) and the Facebook status updates data (41,056,346 words) into contexts grouped in chronological order (i.e., past, present, and future) using verbs and years as time markers. These contexts were used to estimate the valence of each article and status update, respectively, in relation to the time markers using natural language processing tools (i.e., the Latent Semantic Analysis algorithm). Results: Our results using verbs, in both text corpus, showed that valence for the future was significantly higher compared to the past (future > past). Similarly, in the Reuter year condition, valence increased approximately linear from 1994 to 1999 for texts written 1996-1997. In the Facebook year condition, the valence of the future was also significantly higher than past valence. Conclusion: Generally, the analyses of the Reuters data indicated that the past is devaluated relative to both the present and the future, while the analyses of the Facebook data indicated that both the past and the present are devaluated against the future. On this basis, we suggest that people strive to communicate the promotion of a bright future and the prevention of a dark future, which in turn leads to a temporal-valence asymmetrical phenomenon (valence = past < present < future).


External organisations
  • University of Gothenburg
  • Stanford University
  • Network for Empowerment and Well‐Being
  • Blekinge County Council
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Information Systems, Social aspects


  • Future, Latent semantic analysis, Past, Present, Prevention focus, Promotion focus, Time-anchored incitements
Original languageEnglish
Article number1623
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberSEP
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sep 13
Publication categoryResearch