A joint study conducted by researchers from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and the University of Amsterdam has found that using emojis in work-related emails, although perceived as a friendly gesture by the sender, actually conveys incompetence to the recipient.
“Our findings provide first-time evidence that, contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence,” explained Dr. Ella Glikson, a post-doctorate fellow at BGU’s Department of Management in the Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management.
“In formal business emails, a smiley is not a smile,” Glikson said.
The study, “The Dark Side of a Smiley,” was published July 31 in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal.
The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research funded the study, which involved 549 participants from 29 countries. Experiments included evaluations of competence and warmth of an unknown email sender who utilized emojis in work-related messages.
“When the participants were asked to respond to emails on formal matters, their answers were more detailed and they included more content-related information when the email did not include a smiley,” said Glikson.
The identity and gender of the sender was anonymous in the study, but recipients were more likely to assume the sender was female if a “smiley” was used.