Emojis are better at expressing actual emotions than text, say scientists

Emojis help overcome the difficult problem of conveying emotion and tone in texts. Image: 123RF/Rawpixel

Emojis – love them or hate them they’ve become part of our communication in the digital age and if a new research paper is to be believed they’re better than text in conveying the actual emotion experienced in face-to-face interactions.

The paper, published in the journal Behaviour and Information Technology found that emojis produce “neural responses that are similar to those that are observed in face-to-face communication”.

A happy face makes us happy even if it’s not the actual happy face of the person we’re communicating with.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal the clarity of emotion signalled by the use of emojis, “can lead to better co-operation” in the workplace.

“A happy face makes us happy even if it’s not the actual happy face of the person we’re communicating with”

Of course while some emojis are designed with very specific ideas in mind, popular culture has tended to repurpose them for other meanings. Why the aubergine was originally included, who knows but these days it certainly doesn’t mean that you’d like to make a mousaka for someone.

Also as Alex Hern, writing in The Guardian, points out: “Because of the way emojis are created – approved by a non-profit organisation, the Unicode Consortium, but then drawn by individual companies including Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Google – the same icon can look very different when sent across platforms.”

This has caused some confusion – a pot of food emoji is a paella on Google and Microsoft but a stew on Apple and Samsung and there was a period when a pistol was a water gun on an iPhone and a real one on Android devices.

While that may have made dinner and gun club WhatsApp discussions a little confusing for a while, there is an effort by the Unicode Consortium to standardise emojis across platforms and as always every year will bring about new additions to the emoji vocabulary but hopefully no sequel to the terribly ill advised Emoji animated film.

For now we still have words but perhaps sometimes the addition of emojis helps to overcome the still difficult problem of conveying emotion and tone in texts. If you can’t say it with words then you can always rely on an emoji to make your point clearly – except of course when it comes to aubergines, whose reputation has unfortunately been forever tarnished.

BY: Tymon Smith

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