Seriously?! Prevalence and motives of using emojis in job-related communication and their effect on perceived executive characteristics

Digitalized communication has provoked significant changes in human interaction culture, affecting private as well as work-related settings. Often, emojis or emoticons are used to enrich and disambiguate written messages. The aim of the present experiment was to investigate prevalence and motives of using emojis or emoticons in job-related written messages, as well as their potential effects on impression formation. Participants read an e-mail presumably written by a male supervisor demanding the timely completion of an important task. They described the sender as lower in assertiveness, but higher in warmth when the message was enriched with emojis or emoticons, respectively, as compared to a third condition with plain text. These results replicate prior findings on effects of emojis on the ascription of leadership competences. No differences emerged between the emoji vs. emoticon conditions, nor were there any differences in prevalence, usage motives or impression effects according to participants’ gender. Self-report data indicate a highly mindful and context-sensitive use of emojis or emoticons, according implications for future research are discussed.

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