Emails are more likely to get you a date than a text, voicemail or a phone call, a new study suggests, contradicting previous research.
Earlier research has suggested that a voicemail message is a more intimate way to connect with others, but that may not be true, particularly among millennials, researchers said.
“The bottom line is that email is much better when you want to convey some information that you want someone to think about,” said Alan R Dennis, Chair of Internet Systems in Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.
Using psychophysiological measures from 72 college-age people, the researchers found that people who sent romantic emails were more emotionally aroused and used stronger and more thoughtful language than those who left voicemails.
“When writing romantic emails, senders consciously or subconsciously added more positive content to their messages, perhaps to compensate for the medium’s inability to convey vocal tone,” the researchers wrote in the study.
Email enables senders to modify the content as messages are composed to ensure they are crafted to the needs of the situation. Voicemail lacks this feature, they added.
A sender records a voicemail in a single take, and it can be sent or discarded and re-recorded, but not edited.
“Thus senders engage with email messages longer and may think about the task more deeply than when leaving voicemails. This extra processing may increase arousal,” they said.
This is believed to be the first research study on how we respond to email using physiological measures.
The use of email induced more arousing psychophysiological responses than voicemail, regardless of whether the message was utilitarian or romantic.
Dennis noted that the findings run counter to a commonly held theory suggesting that the further we get away from face-to-face communications, the less natural and less effective it becomes.
“Email’s been in the popular consciousness since the 1990s, and if you look at the new generation of millenials, and that’s who we studied, they’ve grown up with email and text messaging,” Dennis said.
The researchers found that senders of utilitarian messages sent less positive emails than voicemails for the same communication task.
However, when composing romantic messages, senders included the most positive and most arousing emotional content in emails and the least positive and least arousing emotional content in voicemails.
The research was conducted by placing skin sensors on the subjects’ faces to measure muscle movement associated with positive and negative emotion, and on their feet to measure arousal.
Subjects were randomly chosen to do voicemail or email first and produce a utilitarian or a romantic message first.
The study was published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour.