Emojis (drawing representing facial expressions) are used to give a more human dimension to digital conversations. These shapes are ubiquitous today and users even have access to a real “emoji” keyboard, knowing that over the years it has been enriched and diversified. A new study by a team from the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa (Canada) concludes that people who use emojis at negative connotations in their texts (SMS) are poorly perceived by their recipients, regardless of the context or the intention. This has been published in the journal “Computers in Human Behavior”.
To come to this conclusion, the researchers were particularly interested in the way in which users analyze the social signals conveyed by facial expressions. They recorded and studied the eye movements of 38 undergraduate volunteers at the University of Ottawa as they were presented with positive, negative, or neutral sentences associated with positive, negative, or neutral emojis as well as no emojis (12 possibilities ). The volunteers had to evaluate each message to deduce the emotional state and the cordiality of the transmitter. The science team found that emojis have a big effect on how the message is interpreted by recipients.
Regardless of the tone of the message, the emoji prevails
Indeed, “any negative element leads to a negative interpretation, which means that a negative message, even a positive emoji, will be interpreted negatively. Using negative emojis makes you think you’re a cold person and causes you to be acted like you’re in a bad mood, no matter what the tone of the message is. », Explains Professor Isabelle Boutet, holder in psychology. In addition, even if the message sent is positive, the emoji with a negative connotation will still be perceived as a clue of a bad mood. In short: any negative element tints the perception that recipients have of texts.
“We also found that certain types of messages were more difficult to get across, people find it difficult to decipher irony and sarcasm. », Adds Professor Boutet, for whom this study sheds light on the differences between texting and direct interaction. “People often try to control their facial expressions to avoid conflict, but they use emojis lightly as they have major repercussions on interpersonal relationships. The question is whether emojis mirror feelings, and whether they use the same mechanisms as facial expressions, which betray emotions and play a leading role in direct interactions
How to optimize the use of emojis?
Researchers are particularly concerned that children and adolescents, who increasingly use digital communication, do not lose this skill of direct interaction. “We have a ton of emojis and in a lot of cases, we don’t even know what they mean. It is therefore very easy to misinterpret it. », Say the researchers. The next step for them will be to work on the design of a reduced lexicon of new emojis conveying the emotions in a more unequivocal way and more depicting real facial expressions to help older people who are not fully conversant with the latest technology.
These people would thus have access to emojis (or emojis) sending clear and precise signals and not causing confusion. In conclusion, however, the scientific team recommends stopping consider emojis like decorations that enhance text messages. Because it turns out that “contrary to what one might think, they greatly influence the way your messages are interpreted and the perception of others towards you. »So if the desire still arises, it is better, in this case, to ensure favor positive emojis for digital social interactions if you want to make a positive impression and be seen as warm.