Women are twice as likely as men to use emoticons in text messages to express themselves emotionally, according to a new study.
Researchers from the Rice University found that while women used emoticons more than men, men used a larger variety of these symbols to express themselves.
Emoticons are graphic symbols that use punctuation marks and letters to represent facial expressions to convey a person’s mood, help provide context to a person’s textual communication and clarify a message that could otherwise possibly be misconstrued.
Researchers used smartphone data from men and women over six months and aggregated 124,000 text messages.
The participants were given free cellphones to use for the test period but didn’t know what researchers were investigating.
In the study, 100 percent of the participants used emoticons, but they did not use them very often, with only four percent of all their sent text messages containing one or more emoticons.
“We believe that our study represents the first naturalistic and longitudinal study that collects real emoticon use from text messages ‘in the wild’,” said Philip Kortum, one of the study’s authors.
“Texting does not appear to require as much socio-emotional context as other means of nonverbal communications,” Kortum said.
“It could be due to texting’s simplicity and briefer communication, which removes some of the pressures that are inherent in other types of non-face-to-face communication, like email or blogs,” Kortum said in a statement.
The study confirms previous research that women are more emotionally expressive in nonverbal communication. Seventy-four different emoticons were used, but the top three emoticons — happy, sad and very happy — made up 70 percent of the total emoticons sent by the participants. The study was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
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