Emoticons give us real emotions
To some, a smiley face on the end of a text or IM might be the pinnacle of throwaway online communication, but actually, it turns out that humans respond to emoticons in the same way as a smile from a real live person.
That’s according to a new study in the latest issue of Social Neuroscience magazine (£1.99 with free binder!). Research by Owen Churches suggests that smiley faces – which are scientifically referred to as ‘metacommunicative pictorial representations of a facial expression – are so widespread on the internet that people’s brains react to them in the same way as real facial expressions. So sad face makes you sad, smiley makes you happy, and :-/ makes you :-/
It’s all down to our occipitotemporal cortex, which governs how we respond to emotions. And as smileys are so endemic, and communication now so casual, our brains are as delighted to see a smiley face online as in IRL.
And it turns out that a smiley face is the most effective way to lighten up the often brutal limitations of the written word- and our brains do a little dance whenever we see one. Our brains have literally been rewired to love emoticons, lol!
But what I really want to know is, how are our occipitotemporal cortexes are dealing with the Facebook cat DJing, or an Emoji of a glass of red wine? More research, please ;-)