The Effects of Different Emoticons on the Perception of Emails in the Workplace

Ernst, Claus-Peter
Huschens, Martin
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Non-verbal communication cues, e.g. facial expressions, and their surrogates in computer-mediated communication, emoticons, influence how a message is understood. Based on the four-ear model of communication, we examine in detail how emoticons affect message perception. More specifically, we examine the different effects of three emoticons [:-) :-( ;-)] on the four levels that define communication. Using a factorial survey with a treatment control group design (N = 231), our findings suggest that emoticon usage does not influence the understanding of a message at the factual information and appeal levels. However, we show that the usage of happy and ironic emoticons significantly shapes the subtext of a message, namely the relationship and self-revelation level, whereas sad emoticons do not have such an effect. These findings hold practical implications: Most importantly, senders can use happy and ironic emoticons to soften their email messages’ illocutionary force at the relationship level and self-revelation level.
Social and Psychological Perspectices in Collaboration Research, Computer-Mediated Communication,Emoticons,Factorial Survey,Four-Ear Model
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