This is a must-read piece if you use smileys and emojis in your conversations with friends, colleagues and others. According to a study, using the smiley face emoji or similar emoticons in formal e-mails may not create a positive impression; conversely, it suggests incompetence. The study results demonstrated that in contrast to face-to-face smiles, which increase both competence and warmth quotients, the smileys in an e-mail had no effect on the perception of warmth, rather it had a negative effect on the perception of competence.
Ben-Gurion University research details
A researcher Dr Ella Glikson from Ben-Gurion University (GBU) of the Negev in Beersheba, Israel said that the findings provide first-time evidence that contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth, but actually decreases perceptions of competence as in formal business e-mails, a smiley is not a smile.
Researchers from BGU, University of Haifa and Amsterdam University conducted a study on 549 participants from 29 different countries. The participants were asked to read a work-related e-mail from an unknown person and then evaluate both the competence and warmth of that person. All the participants received similar messages, some included smileys while others did not.
‘Some may assume the e-mail was sent by woman’
They also found that when the participants were asked to respond to the e-mails on formal matters, their answers were more detailed and included more content-related information, when the e-mail did not include any smiley. Moreover, they found that when the gender of the e-mail writer was unknown and included a smiley, then the recipients were more likely to assume that the e-mail was sent by a woman.
“People tend to assume that a smiley 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,” Dr Glikson advised. In initial interactions, it is better to avoid using smileys, regardless of age or gender, they suggested. The research appears in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.