Research Press Release

Technology: Facial emojis successfully convey human emotions

Scientific Reports

January 28, 2022

Emojis of the human face comprehensively express a range of human emotions, from stressed to elated, when viewed and rated by people in Japan, reports a study published in Scientific Reports.

Emojis are used worldwide to convey emotions and have been used in research, but less is known about how accurately they correspond to human emotional states.

Gaku Kutsuzawa and colleagues presented 74 Twitter facial emojis to 1,082 individuals in Japan, aged between 20 and 39 years. To interpret the emotion emojis represent, the authors asked individuals to rate their interpretation of the emoji, from displeasure to pleasure (known as valence) and the intensity, from weak to strong (known as arousal). The authors clustered the emojis into six distinct groups, from strong negative sentiment to strong positive sentiment.

The strong negative emojis conveying nervousness or stress included an angry face, a tired face, and a face screaming in fear. Strong positive emojis conveying elation or excitement included a grinning face, a face smiling with heart eyes, and a face blowing a kiss. Examples of more neutral and lower arousal emojis depicted slightly frowning or slightly smiling faces, among others.

The authors suggest that differences in mouth and eye shapes may distinguish how positively an emoji is rated. For example, a grinning face with upturned eyes was rated positively while an angry face with downturned eyes was rated negatively. The emojis that elicited the strongest arousal, both for negative and positive emojis, often contained extra accessories, such as tears or heart-shaped eyes. The authors suggest that, given emojis are static, additional accessories may help aid recognition of the emotion intensity.

The authors conclude that emojis can display human emotional states in greater detail than previously reported and that research looking to evaluate human emotions may benefit from using emojis to engage with participants and overcome language barriers.


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