Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Positive and negative emotions among elite orienteers


I spent some time this morning reading interviews with elite orienteers up for the Orienteering Achievement of 2008 award. World of O and Ultimate Orienteering have been running short interviews with the nominated orienteers.

I plugged the text of 14 of the interviews (7 men and 7 women, no juniors) into some software that counts and categorizes words. The idea is that "the ways that individuals talk and write provide windows into their emotional and cognitive worlds."

I took a quick look at the results for words coded as "positive emotions" and "negative emotions." You can see a spreadsheet with those results. The spreadsheet shows each of the 14 orienteers (I didn't include the names), the median and average for those orienteers, and averages for "personal" and "formal" texts. If I understand the software correctly, the numbers are percent of words coded as either "positive" or "negative" emotions.

A few things caught my eye:

1. The orienteers generally used similar frequencies of positive emotions as are found in both personal and formal texts.

2. The orienteers use relatively few words coded as negative emotions. In fact, 6 of the orienteers had no words coded as negative emotions. The interviews reflect a positive event - being nominated for an award. I would expect a lot of positive emotions.

3. One orienteer (number 13 in the spreadsheet) is an outlier. They use a lot more words coded with negative emotion compared to the other orienteers. They don't use a lot of negative emotion words when compared to either personal or formal texts. If, "the ways that individuals talk and write provide windows into their emotional and cognitive worlds," maybe this one orienteer thinks a bit differently than the other top orienteers. Of course, the sample size (both number of elite orienteers and amount of text) is too small to make much of it.

Here are the orienteers nominated for the award (I looked interviews with all of them except Vroni Konig-Salmi, Tero Fohr, Merja Rantanen, Dimitry Tsvetkov, and Francois Gonon).

Just to give you a sense of how the software rates text, the preceeding text I've just written has 2.9 percent of the words coded as "positive emotions" and 0.58 percent coded as "negative emotions."

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 11:34 AM


Hi Michael,

I found your idea and your analysis very interesting!
However one aspect that would have been certainly worth to mention is that for most of the interviewed runners, English isn't their mother tongue. I'm not necesserally arguing that this fact may actually change the obtained results; but the importance of the language is often impressive, at any level. For having been a bilingual child I often feel like a different person depending on the language, and the race analysis sound sometimes very different to my (also bilingual) trainers when using one language instead of the others, sounding possibly much harder and more negative in one, and softer in the other, althought my emotions keep the same. Interviewing once in English a runner for UO, I was accompanied by a person speaking the same language than this runner, who also spoke with him/her. It was astonishing how different our feedback sounded. I was told that this runner "didn't mean that at all", just for having not choosen the same words to express her/his feelings in her mother thongue or in English... This fact was indeed already very well illustrated in the literature about translation. And as already written - as well for beginners than for bilingual people, althought of course to a lesser extent.

Best wishes and congrats for your interesting articles!
A linguistic-freak ;)
Voting for the Orienteering Achievement of 2008 is now open here:


and will be open until December 9th. Official Press Release about voting will be given Friday November 28th at 1200 CET at World of O / Ultimate Orienteering, but as November 28th has started, we have already opened up for voting for those wanting to be early;)
Lucie. The language issue makes something like this little exercise difficult. Which is why I wouldn't make too much of it. That said, it is interesting that the elite orienteers look similar in the spreadsheet (with a couple of clear exceptions). I guess I'd describe analyzing these interviews as a fun game, but a game that might hint at some interesting characteristics of how people think.

I thought it was particularly interesting that one runner was a clear outlier in terms of the frequency of "negative emotions."

A better experiment for this sort of analysis might be to focus on texts written by native English speakers. I could probably look at Attackpoint logs as a source. Maybe something for another day.

The software is actually fantastic :)
It shows something I felt after reading the interviews - just it used some statistics and rules. I wanted to check if I had been right thinking who is that outlier - and ... Yes, I was :)
Nenad, I was a bit surprised to see such a clear outlier. I wasn't really surprised about who it was.

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