That smiley with a straight mouth and showing his teeth: is he smiling broadly, or does he feel awkward or surprised? This smiley is often used in different ways, so that scientists are not sure where to position it. There has been scientific research into how emoji affect our feelings and an interesting diagram has emerged.

Research on smilies
Above you see it: how we classify emoji by emotion. Japanese researchers have shared their research on Gaku Katsuzawa, Hiroyuki Umemura, Koichiro Eto, and Yoshiyuki Kobayashi used a valence and arousal model for this, meaning value and excitement. Many studies dealing with emotions use this type of model. This made it possible to discover how emoji are classified on the basis of valence and excitement. Tranquility versus crowds, you could say very succinctly.

The researchers wanted to see how the emoji correspond to human emotional states, so they conducted an online survey of 1,082 participants (all of whom were young Japanese). Of 74 emoji, the arousal levels and valence levels in people were looked at. There are emoji that evoke strong negative sentiment, moderate negative sentiment, neutral sentiment with negative bias, neutral sentiment with positive bias, moderate positive segment, and strong positive segment. Good news for the Unicode Consortium: the emojis appear to express human emotions very well.

From emoji to emotion
It’s interesting that this is being researched, because emojis have been used as a non-verbal communication tool for years. What seems? People mainly look at what feeling an emoji should evoke by looking at the eyes, how the ‘muscles’ pull and, for example, the mouth and eyebrows. This is why smilies are so popular: there are many emoji of objects or people, but they lack a face, making it more difficult to make an emotion clear.

To read the table, look at the vertical line for valence and the horizontal line for excitement. So you see that an angry smiley causes relatively little excitement, but all the more valence. The study shows that people often react in roughly the same way when they see an emoji: they quickly recognize a human emotion in it, which means that emoji are very well able to show human emotions.

condom emoji
The researchers write: “Based on our findings, we can state that emojis can represent human emotional states in significantly more detail than previously reported. Using it in research areas such as consumer surveys can speed up the process of capturing human sentiments. In addition, it has the advantage that they are less influenced by the native language of the participants.

At least there is one emotion that is missing: alarmed, or tense. Although there are emojis that resemble it, few emoji are fully regarded by everyone as emoji for those feelings. Anyway, there are more emoji missing: in the broader spectrum, for example, it is rather ridiculous that there is no condom emoji. Pregnancies and babies, but condoms? These have been a blind spot of the Unicode Consortium for some time now. Something the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is currently focusing on.

Eggplants and peaches
People can talk about all kinds of sexual topics with aubergines and peaches, but there is no way to do it ‘safely’. Some people appear to use the umbrella with rain to still describe a condom, but the organization prefers a clearer emoji. However, the Unicode Consortium does not want it to date, because it does not get involved with emoji that have to do with violence or sex. And what about the water pistol?

Although a condom emoji can be very valuable, the other emoji appear to be especially popular: the smilies. They can only really express human emotions well and that can make things much easier in WhatsApp conversations in which you do not understand each other’s language. Although it can also make things very uncomfortable in WhatsApp conversations in which you do speak each other’s language.. 😐

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