We often put in a smiley emoticon in an official email in hopes of sounding friendly but recent research has burst this happy bubble of ours.
According to this research, putting in an emoticon gives off a negative image of a person instead of a positive one.
The research was published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal. It said that when you send a smiley emoticon it a gives an impression of incompetence in the person. It also did not increase the perception of friendliness and warmth from the sender’s side.
This makes us think that maybe the emoticons are not as efficient in displaying our emotions virtually as we thought they were.
In business correspondence, the language and expression methods matter a lot. It determines the level of trust the correspondent is going to place in you. There are also small amounts of gender bias included in using of emoticons.
The Workings Of The Study
The study was a combination of several tests across 29 countries. A total of 500 participants participated in the study.
In the first test, two groups of people were made. One group was shown an email which had a smiley emoticon and the other half was shown the email without the emoticon. The content of the email was kept consistent in both the groups.
The participants were then asked to reply to that email and rate the perception of warmth and friendliness they got. The researchers calculated the amount of trust the volunteers were ready to place in the sender by their replies.
The people who were sent the email with the smiley face had reservations regarding the sharing of their information to the sender. The other group was more comfortable with giving out their information to the sender.
The next experiment included showing two pictures of people, one smiling and one with neutral expression to the volunteers. They were first shown the picture and asked who would they trust more. The majority said the one who was smiling. They were then showed an official email with an emoticon and asked would they still trust the person the same person. Their response was negative. The researchers concluded that if the email included an emoticon it was not taken seriously enough regardless of the person. The sender is always going to be considered less competent.
An Element of Gender Bias
Another conclusion which came out of this study was that even though the gender of the person sending the email with emoticon was kept unknown, most of the volunteers assumed them to be female. They related emoticons to women.
According to a study for women to be influential and taken seriously at work, they are supposed to be well behaved and well liked. One way of this was using and emoticons but this study shows that it can completely backfire.
“People tend to assume that a smiley [emoji] is a virtual smile, but the findings of this study show that in the case of the workplace, at least as far as initial ‘encounters’ are concerned, this is incorrect,” Ella Glikson, the study author, said in a statement.
This study shows that it is better to leave the emoticons alone all together in business correspondence.