A smiling emoji in a business email makes the sender look incompetent, new research finds.
It also does not make the sender look like a warmer person either.
Dr Ella Glikson, the study’s first author, said:
“Our findings provide first-time evidence that, contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence.
In formal business e-mails, a smiley is not a smile.”
The series of experiments were conducted on 549 people from 29 different countries.
Face-to-face smiles do indeed make people seem warmer and, indeed, more competent.
However, emojis in emails do not do the same.
Dr Glikson said:
“The study also found that when the participants were asked to respond to e-mails on formal matters, their answers were more detailed and they included more content-related information when the e-mail did not include a smiley.
We found that the perceptions of low competence if a smiley is included in turn undermined information sharing.”
Emails containing emojis were thought more likely to be sent by a woman, the researchers found.
This could reflects gender stereotypes.
Dr Glikson said:
“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.
For now, at least, a smiley can only replace a smile when you already know the other person.
In initial interactions, it is better to avoid using smileys, regardless of age or gender.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science (Glikson et al., 2017).