Friendly, Humorous, Incompetent? On the Influence of Emoticons on Interpersonal Perception in the Workplace

AbstractCompetence, humor and friendliness are good qualities to demonstrate in the workplace. We know that facial expressions provide recipients of a message with information about the senders—conveying that they possess such qualities. However, we only have limited knowledge of whether emoticons, facial expression surrogates in computer-mediated communications, do this in a similar way. Based on the four-ear model of communication and using a factorial survey, we examined how happy emoticons affect recipients’ perceptions of senders’ competence, humor and friendliness in the context of workplace emails. Our findings suggest that emoticon usage does not influence recipients’ perceptions of senders’ competence, but does influence the perception of their humor and friendliness. These findings hold practical implications: Senders can use happy emoticons to convey beneficial information at the self-revelation level of a message. Indeed, happy emoticons can make senders seem humorous and friendly to others, and does not make them seem incompetent.

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