Older people are more likely to use emojis incorrectly and their meanings can vary greatly from country to country, according to a new study.
Scientists at the University of Nottingham found that older texting users were less successful than younger ones in trying to match emojis with the emotion they are supposed to represent.
This could mean that older people are more likely to send an inappropriate emoticon, such as a smiley face or an angry face, at the wrong time.
Woe to the grandchildren whose grandparents decide to make eggplant casserole or peach cobbler. And hopefully, if your great-aunt sends you an emoji with her face red and sweaty and her tongue sticking out, she just means that you need the air conditioning on.
Researchers asked 500 men and women in the United Kingdom and China to identify emotions represented by a series of small yellow icons popular in text messages and social media posts.
They also found that Brits had a harder time recognizing the “disgust” face, possibly because the infamously reserved Brits are less likely to express that emotion, keeping their displeasure closer to the vest.
Researchers asked 500 men and women in the United Kingdom and China to identify emotions represented in a series of emojis, those little yellow icons popular in text messages. Women surpassed men in being more insightful when it came to reading the meaning of the icons.
Study participants observed emojis representing happiness, disgust, fear, sadness, surprise, and anger, across multiple technological operating systems that varied in emoji design (above).
Woe to the grandchildren whose grandparents decide to make eggplant casserole or peach cobbler.
Study participants looked at emojis representing happiness, disgust, fear, sadness, surprise and anger.
Overall, Westerners did better than Chinese in recognizing emoji emotions, but struggled with the “disgust” face, which has low features with a trembling mouth, a frown and closed eyes. The researchers said this may be due to “specific emotional experiences in different cultures.”
They also noted that in China, the “smile” face was often used to represent emotions other than happiness. The study was published in the scientific journal. Plus one.
Dr Hannah Howman, lead author of the study, said: “Our findings in relation to age and culture highlight the importance of context in emoji use, for example the possibility that participants in China may commonly use the “smile” emoji for different purposes than to mean happiness, which means that some “universal” facial emotions may not be “universal” when transferred to emoji.
“The current results have important implications when considering the use of emoji in online communication, for example, with interlocutors from different cultures or of different ages.”
Britain is one of the most emoji-hungry nations in the world, and half of us send at least one every day. They are also popular across all age groups, with little variation between generations.
The researchers found that English posts on X, formerly Twitter, were also riddled with emojis, more so than on China’s Weibo social media platform.
The study also found that men have difficulty grasping the meaning of emoji faces because they are less sensitive than women.
Women fared better across the board. The researchers said this may be because women are better able to recognize the emotions of human babies.
Yihua Chen, from the University of Nottingham, said: “Women demonstrate greater accuracy in emotion recognition than men. One possible explanation is the ‘primary caregiver hypothesis.’
“Quickly and accurately identifying infant emotions, especially facial expressions, is a very important part of infant care, as infant mortality has generally been high throughout human evolution.”
The new emoji coming to your iPhone later this year were revealed last month. Among them are a lime, a phoenix, a brown mushroom, a broken metal chain, two shaking heads, and four gender neural families.
There are also more than 100 people watching sideways in a variety of skin colors and genders, including some with canes and others in wheelchairs.
In November last year, a child claimed that urgent changes were needed to one of the most popular emoji: the “nerd.”
musicMagpie experts have revealed Britain’s top 10 emojis
Teddy Cottle, 10, from Oxfordshire, has launched a petition calling on Apple to change the “offensive and insulting” character.
He stated that prominent front teeth give the wrong impression of those who wear glasses and suggests that a smile would be more appropriate.
“It makes me feel sad and upset, and if I find it offensive, there will be thousands of people around the world who will also find it offensive,” he said.
And last year, musicMagpie experts revealed Britain’s top 10 emojis.
Their findings suggest that several popular icons make us cringe, with the “two hearts” emoji topping the list as the most disgusting.
Liam Howley, marketing director at musicMagpie, said: “Given that much of our communication today is done through technological devices, it is no surprise that ick has transcended the physical world and entered the digital world.”
Emojis are a standard feature on smartphones and computers. Cartoonish faces expressing various emotions date back to the 1990s and have since become a cultural element.
In fact, in 2015, Oxford Dictionaries made the “crying with laughter” emoji their “word of the year.” Casper Grathwohl, vice-president of Oxford University Press, said at the time: “Traditional alphabetic scripts have been struggling to meet the rapid, visually focused demands of 21st-century communication.”
“It’s not surprising that a pictographic script like the emoji has stepped in to fill those gaps: it’s flexible, immediate, and wonderfully infusing tone.”
“As a result,” Grathwohl concluded, “emoji are becoming an increasingly rich form of communication, transcending linguistic boundaries.”