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What is Important in a Crisis?First Relationship, then Responsibility?

May 28, 2020 10:18:02 PM / by Daniel Spitzer, Aswathy Velutharambath, Lutz Büch

And again we look at the discussion on Twitter during the Corona pandemic. In the meantime, the analysis considered more than 390,000 tweets in German (without retweets) for the period between February 26 and May 26. That makes almost 4,400 tweets per day.

In our third article in this series we take a look at the needs expressed in language. As we have seen in previous articles, language conveys some information about the state and character of the speakers. This includes implicit wants and needs. Implicit here means that we do not necessarily have to be aware of these wishes, but they can still be effective.


Motives are the generators of our striving

But what are needs that are expressed in language? Probably the best known theory about this comes from David McClelland and postulates a triad of needs (also called "motives") for good relationships with other people, for development and progress, and for influence, status and power. At first, these motives may sound somewhat abstract. A concrete example should make them more tangible. Imagine that you are an employee in a marketing agency and have the task of developing the advertising strategy for a new smartphone. From your market research department you know that the target group includes people with relationship, performance and influence motives. So how do you ensure that the different needs are addressed? By formulating individual ads for each customer. For relationship-oriented people, the communication aspect of smartphones could be highlighted in the sense of: "Stay in touch with your loved ones even more easily" or the performance aspect for performance-oriented people: "Latest technology enables a previously unknown image quality" or the status aspect with: "Be one of the first owners of this special product". So it is through language that needs and motives are expressed. And we have analysed these motives in German-language Twitter messages over the last three months (period between 26 February and 26 May). Here are the results

Confidence is spreading

Let us first look at the results for the performance motive. As a reminder, this is about the need to develop and move forward. During the crisis, this is probably less to think about, since some people are concerned with existential questions. The results show a relatively constant course of the curve. However, there has been a slight increase recently. A higher value in the graph means a stronger emphasis on the performance motive.

Can this be interpreted as a sign of confidence? If we look at other indicators such as the Ifo business climate index or the performance of the DAX share index, they show similar developments. Although the two indicators of the economic situation and the measurement of the performance motive in language are very different measures, all three provide information about the expectation of success or failure. So it is not surprising that all three show a similar direction.


What is important is what we cannot have

The relationship motive, i.e. the need for good and close relationships, shows a much more distinctive course. As can be seen in the graph, the relationship motive rises sharply in mid-March and remains at a high level until mid-April. This falls precisely at the time of the lockdown and the restriction of contacts. It is not surprising that the relationship motive rises during this time and shows that people became aware of the importance of interpersonal closeness. According to the motto: "What you cannot have, you desire".

However, it is also conceivable that the relatively high proportion of relationship motives in language in the period between March and April is an expression of concern for one another. Here we also made an interesting observation at 100W: The number of relationship-oriented formulations in advertisements has increased strongly since the outbreak of the Corona crisis. Looking after each other seems to be a need for many people.


Taking responsibility?

And finally, we look at the motive for influence. Here we also see an interesting development. The curve rises for a long time and - later than the relationship motive - reaches a plateau in mid-April, which lasts until early May. The rise is probably linked, among other things, to the discussion about easing measures. Because the central theme here is "responsibility". What are responsible relaxation measures and how can the pandemic be dealt with responsibly at all? Since responsibility is an aspect of power, influence and status, we see an increase here.

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Tags: 100 Worte, Motive, Analyse, Corona, coronavirus pandemic, covid 19, corona effect, tweets analysis, twitter

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