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From Language to the Mind: Learning to Read Deception, Connotation and Literary Success

Language is a window into the mind. It is not just what we write, but it is how we write that reveals a lot about our personal traits, socio-cognitive identities, concealed intention such as deception, nuanced connotation, and even literary success. Understanding language is already hard enough, hence understanding minds through language may seem even harder. In this talk, I will show that data-driven analysis of writing style, i.e., how we write, can be surprisingly powerful in reading the cognitive context of writing beyond the explicit and literal content of text. What's more, computers can at times substantially outperform humans in perceiving people's minds, despite the lack of full blown understanding of underlying semantics and human-like common sense knowledge. I will present a series of our recent work under this theme, ranging from deception detection in online review communities, to prediction of the success of literary works, and to learning the nuanced connotation beneath the surface meaning.