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SWPS University - Main page

The link between linguistic agency and mood

The link between linguistic agency and mood

principal investigator / project leader
Marta Witkowska
Ph.D. / Assistant Professor

social psychologist researching the language of agency

Full bio
project value: PLN 781,393
funding source: National Science Center
discipline: linguistics, psychology
research center: Institute of Psychology
location: Warsaw
duration: 2022 2023 2024 2025

Depression and low mood often cause a profound sense of inability and powerlessness, which often leaves individuals almost entirely unable to act. Marta Witkowska, Ph.D., from SWPS University’s Center for Research on Social Relations, will investigate whether language can influence mood and help people suffering from mood disorders.

Project objectives

The goal of the project is to investigate how language conveying agency impacts mood.

Project number: 2021/43/B/HS6/02819

When we communicate with other people, we can infer information about the mental state, not only by listening to what they openly say, but also from the way they talk. This aspect is critical for my study. In the project financed by a grant from the National Science Centre, I will have an opportunity to carry out a broad analysis of language typical for people suffering from low mood. Could their mental state be detected from the words and grammar they choose to use? Previous research has already indicated a number of factors characteristic for depressed individuals, however they omitted one key mood factor – linguistic agency. Agency is manifested in language by using words and grammatical forms reflecting activity, goals, planning, and self-efficacy. Would people experiencing low mood use less words and grammatical forms conveying agency? Could we identify them by the language they use on the internet? To answer these questions I will use computer text analytics that will allow me to analyze a large number of source materials from Twitter and Reddit. During the second phase of the project, I will test whether language can influence mood.

Witkowska, Marta Principal Investigator
Permanent employee
social psychologist researching the language of agency
First and last name
Marta Witkowska
Academic degree or title
Ph.D. / Assistant Professor
Role in the Institute
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Role in the Research Center
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Role in the Faculty
Role in the Department
Ph.D. / Assistant Professor Marta Witkowskasocial psychologist researching the language of agency


Since agency may be effectively expressed in language, it might be worthwhile to expand research on the link between agency and mood to include linguistic studies. Hence, the goal of this project is to investigate how agency-signaling language is linked to mood. I will use various methodologies (e.g. correlational research, experimental, and analysis of social networks) as well as different languages (Polish, English, and Italian). The investigation will be carried out on messages posted on social media (Twitter and Reddit), and short texts written by study participants during the course of the investigation. During the final stage of the project, will test whether mood can be influenced by language.

Research team

Dr. Marta Witkowska. Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Practical application of results

Results of this project will fill significant gaps in the current body of knowledge in areas such as persuasion, influence of social media on mental state and will help to improve automatic detection of mood on the internet. The study may also inform subsequent applied research in this area, and serve as a basis for further studies involving clinical samples. Furthermore, the project can help to formulate recommendations for practitioners specializing in therapy of mood disorders and develop new language-based tools for psychoeducation about emotional regulation. Finally, the study can help improve tools for early detection of suicidal risk and early detection of depression, in social media.

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