Emoji faces are ubiquitous and integrated into most people’s everyday (nonverbal) vernacular. Yet, we know little about how people interpret these characters in terms of their emotional content. Do people agree that an emoji face represents an individual emotion and that it is unique to a specific emotion? Are such representations similar across electronic platforms? The present study took a theoretical approach to address these questions by investigating shared agreement between emoji–emotion pairings across three electronic platforms (Apple, Android, and Samsung). Two hundred twenty-eight English-speaking adults completed an online survey that involved picking up to three emoji faces (presented from a common set from one of three platforms) for each of 10 emotions. They then indicated the strength of that relationship. We examined whether the intensities that participants gave to emoji–emotion pairings were specific and consistent across platforms. Our results showed limited shared agreement for the majority of emoji–emotion pairings, and significant variation as to which emotion category a “comparable” emoji belonged depending upon the viewed platform. We highlight the need for future emoji perception research to examine how different platform renderings of the same emoji might lead to miscommunication and interpretation discrepancies.
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There were two exceptions to this rule: We decided to keep Samsung’s confounded-face emoji and the worried-face emoji even though these particular emojis had an embellishment. In these cases, we removed the embellishments with Photoshop.
A forced-choice task is less reflective of a natural choice task (e.g. participants are forced to assign one emoji face to an emotion category). Therefore, any “universal” findings might result from the restrictive design.
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We would like to thank A. Scott McCauley for help with programming the survey. We would also like to thank Tatum Leclair and Maatangi Krishna who helped code the data. Finally, we would like to thank Aminda O’Hare and Mahzad Hojjat for assistance with the emoji selection.
This work was supported by the Office of Undergraduate Research at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth to Courtny Franco.
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Franco, C.L., Fugate, J.M.B. Emoji Face Renderings: Exploring the Role Emoji Platform Differences have on Emotional Interpretation. J Nonverbal Behav 44, 301–328 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10919-019-00330-1
- Emoji faces
- Electronic platforms
- Electronic communication
- Emotion theory