Perceived Usefulness of Emoticons, Emojis, and Stickers in Text Messaging: Effect of gender and Text-Messaging Dependency

Perceived Usefulness of Emoticons, Emojis, and Stickers in Text Messaging: Effect of gender and Text-Messaging Dependency

Shogo Kato (Tokyo Woman's Christian University, Tokyo, Japan), Yuuki Kato (Sagami Women's University, Kanagawa, Japan) and Yasuyuki Ozawa (Meisei University, Tokyo, Japan)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/IJCBPL.2018070102
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In text-based communication, which lacks nonverbal cues, various techniques for expressing communicative intent are now available. Most prominently used are emoticons, emojis, and stickers. Although previous studies have separately examined emoticons and emojis, few have compared their features, and also included comparison with stickers. The authors conducted a survey targeting 300 Japanese young adults to investigate the features of emoticons, emojis, and stickers from the viewpoint of their perceived usefulness. The authors also examined the effects of gender and text-messaging dependency on ratings of the perceived usefulness of these graphical symbols. This study revealed a detailed feature list for each type of symbol. The existence of characteristic roles for each type of symbol is discussed. This study also confirmed the effects of gender and text-messaging dependency on symbol usefulness ratings.
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1. Introduction

Early studies on computer-mediated communication (CMC) discussed the lack of nonverbal cues in text-based forms of interaction (Daft & Lengel, 1984; Sproull & Kiesler, 1986). As a result, CMC was considered better suited to task-oriented applications than to socioemotional interactions (Rice & Love, 1987; Rutter, 1984). However, subsequent studies have shown the ingenuity applied to socioemotional interaction in text-based CMC (Thompsen & Fougler, 1996; Walther, 1992), one example of which is the use of emoticons. Emoticons are punctuation characters or graphical symbols (Huffaker & Calvert, 2005), providing graphic representations of facial expressions embedded in electronic messages (Derks, Bos, & Von Grumbkow, 2008; Walther & D’Addario, 2001). Emoticons are thus visual cues, primarily used to express emotions (Dresner & Herring, 2010; Rezabek & Cochenour, 1998; Riva, 2002). Today, text-based interactions are frequently via mobile phones. In the 1990s, Japanese mobile phone companies transformed simple emoticons into colorful pictorial images, broadly termed “emojis,” for use with their mobile phones (Kaye, Malone, & Wall, 2017; Stark & Crawford, 2015). Using emojis in text messaging was initially unique to Japan, but in 2010 Google successfully pushed for inclusion of emojis in Unicode 6.0. Since then, emoji characters have been globally used in mobile phones and computers (Ma, 2016). Today, emojis enjoy worldwide popularity and are applied across numerous online platforms, including Twitter and Facebook (Kaye, Malone, & Wall, 2017; Novak, Smailović, Sluban, & Mozetič, 2015; Emogi Research Team, 2016).

“Stickers” are a relatively new graphical expression for conveying emotional states, attitudes, and opinions (Tabuchi, 2014). Stickers were originally illustrations that could be attached to text messages in “LINE,” the most popular instant messenger app for smartphones in Japan (Kato & Kato, 2017). By 2013, Facebook’s “Messenger” application too had similar features, as did the iOS app “iMessage” by 2016. Because stickers are larger than emoticons and emojis, and are typically fully illustrated characters and often contain short text messages (Kato & Kato, 2017; Wang, 2016). Stickers can thus express not only emotions, but various verbal and nonverbal communicative intents. The screenshot in Figure 1 shows an example of text messaging in the LINE app.

Figure 1.

An example of text messaging in the LINE app


Sticker use is expected to become increasingly popular worldwide, similar to emoticons and emojis (Ma, 2016; Tabuchi, 2014; Wang, 2016). As many previous studies have pointed out, stickers are considered to have potential capability for socioemotional expression in text-based communication similar to emoticons (Derks et al., 2008; Lo, 2008) and emojis (Kaye et al., 2017; Marengo, Giannotta, & Settanni, 2017). Nevertheless, few studies have investigated stickers in text messaging.

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