January 20, 2017 5:13:18 pm
Emojis and emoticons on social media platforms like Facebook are an alternative to facial movements and hand gestures used in face-to-face interactions, say scientists who claim that these symbols may explain how we relate to each other in the digital age.
More than 90 per cent of online populations now incorporate emojis and emoticons into their texts and emails, and researchers are wondering what their use of can unveil about human behaviour.
Early studies have found that these typographic displays can aid in cross-cultural communication and provide insights in to user personalities, information that could be of interest to disciplines ranging from linguistics to marketing. During face-to-face interactions, verbal and nonverbal cues such as facial movements, voice pitch, and shaking fists are essential to understanding the meaning of what we are communicating.
Researchers believe that emojis and emoticons are similarly used as visual aids to clarify and understand a message.
“We mostly use emojis like gestures, as a way of enhancing emotional expressions,” said Linda Kaye, a cyber psychologist at Edge Hill University in the UK. “There are a lot of idiosyncrasies in how we gesture, and emojis are similar to that, especially because of the discrepancies as to how and why we use them,” said Hill.
Emojis and emoticons, popular on social media sites and messaging apps, are not just for millennials. A 2014 survey of 1,000 people in the US showed only 54 per cent of emoticon users were in the age range of 18-34. Communicating via smiley face may actually be more closely related to personality than age.
“If you look at personality traits, like agreeableness, how amenable you are to other people, it seems to be related to whether you use emojis or not,” Kaye said. Psychologists also want to use online data to understand how communicating via emojis and emoticons can provide insights into social inclusion.
Depending on how we use emojis, these simple displays of virtual emotion can impact how we perceive each other. “People are making judgements about us based on how we use emojis, and they’re not necessarily accurate,” Kaye said. “What we need to be aware of is that those judgements might differ depending on where or with whom you’re using those emojis, such as in the workplace or between family members,” she said.
Researchers hope to understand how emojis might serve as the intersection between in-person and online interactions and how human nature can be reflected through digital media. The study was published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
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