English Journal Article

Tuned in on senders’ self-revelation: Emojis and emotional intelligence influence interpretation of WhatsApp messages

Computers in Human Behavior Reports, Volume 3, January–July 2021 |


Emojis function like nonverbal cues in digital communication, but how do they impact the meaning of a message? We tested experimentally (N ​= ​50) if the presence of emojis in WhatsApp messages influences their interpretation as either factual information, self-revelation of the sender, relationship information, or an appeal (“four-ears model”). Messages were most frequently interpretated as self-revelation, especially if they contained an emoji, whereas sole text messages were equally as frequently perceived as either self-revelation or factual information. The interpretation of messages with or without emojis interacted with whether their content was positive or negative. Additionally, recipient’s emotional intelligence both as an ability (cognitive measure) and trait (personality measure) was associated with interpreting self-revelation, but only in emoji messages. Emojis may thus provide the cues necessary to extract emotional information from text-based messages, to which emotionally intelligent recipients seem to be especially responsive.