Women use emoticons more than men in text messaging :-)

October 11, 2012 by David Ruth, Rice University

Women use emoticons more than men in text messaging :-)
Credit: Rice University/Photos.com
(Phys.org)—Women are twice as likely as men to use emoticons in text messages, according to a new study from Rice University.

Emoticons are graphic symbols that use punctuation marks and letters to represent to convey a person's mood, help provide context to a person's textual communication and clarify a message that could otherwise possibly be misconstrued.

The study, "A Longitudinal Study of Emoticon Use in Text Messaging from Smartphones," used data from men and women over six months and aggregated 124,000 text messages. The participants were given free iPhones to use for the test period but didn't know what researchers were investigating.

"We believe that our study represents the first naturalistic and that collects real emoticon use from text messages 'in the wild,'" said Philip Kortum, assistant professor of psychology at Rice and one of the study's authors.

Texting has become one of the most popular forms of communication in society worldwide. This year alone, it is estimated that 8 trillion text messages will be tapped out.

In the Rice study, 100 percent of the participants used emoticons, but they did not use them very often, with only 4 percent of all their sent text messages containing one or more emoticons. Other researchers have found differing rates, but those studies relied on users to self-report their emoticon usage. One benefit of the current field study is the realistic look at the ground truth of what actually occurred and what users really do.

"Texting does not appear to require as much socio-emotional context as other means of nonverbal communications," Kortum said. "It could be due to 's simplicity and briefer communication, which removes some of the pressures that are inherent in other types of non-face-to-face communication, like email or blogs."

The study also confirms previous research that women are more emotionally expressive in ; however, in this research, the authors found that while women may use emoticons more than men, the men used a larger variety of emoticons to express themselves.

Participants in the Rice study texted a wide variety of emoticons. Seventy-four different emoticons were used, but the top three emoticons – happy, sad and very happy – made up 70 percent of the total sent by the study participants.

Kortum and his co-authors pointed out that their study is a glimpse into the complex nature of real mediated communications. They said that additional inquiry in real-world settings are needed to understand the complexities of human communications through technology.

The study's co-authors were Chad Tossell, Clayton Shepard, Ahmad Rahmati and Lin Zhong, all of Rice University, and Laura Barg-Walkow at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The study was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and appeared in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

The data collected from the smartphones included all text messages sent and received with the timestamp, number of words and amount and type of emoticon(s) used. Privacy was maintained by making the users anonymous and by permanently masking the textual content.

Explore further: The meaning of emoticons

Related Stories

The meaning of emoticons

October 14, 2011

The emoticons used on Twitter are a language in themselves and are taking on new and often surprising meanings of their own, according to new research.

When texting, eligible women express themselves better

February 10, 2009

The book "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus" and its gender stereotypes on how the sexes communicate remains fodder for debate, but two Indiana University researchers have confirmed one thing: When men and women talk ...

Student researches how texting culture has evolved

November 1, 2010

Back in the good old days, the most complex message one could expect to receive via texting was 160 characters long and ended with LOL, maybe ROFL on a particularly crazy day.  But according to research from a recently ...

Facial expressions show language barriers too

August 13, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- People from East Asia tend to have a tougher time than those from European countries telling the difference between a face that looks fearful versus surprised, disgusted versus angry, and now a new report ...

Recommended for you

Light-based production of drug-discovery molecules

February 18, 2019

Photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells are widely studied for the conversion of solar energy into chemical fuels. They use photocathodes and photoanodes to "split" water into hydrogen and oxygen respectively. PEC cells can work ...

Sound waves let quantum systems 'talk' to one another

February 18, 2019

Researchers at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory have invented an innovative way for different types of quantum technology to "talk" to each other using sound. The study, published Feb. 11 in Nature ...

Engineered metasurfaces reflect waves in unusual directions

February 18, 2019

In our daily lives, we can find many examples of manipulation of reflected waves, such as mirrors, or reflective surfaces for sound that improve auditorium acoustics. When a wave impinges on a reflective surface with a certain ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3 / 5 (2) Oct 11, 2012
waste of money :-(
I could have told you that :-/
have a nice day ^^
1.7 / 5 (3) Oct 11, 2012
Whats this -> ,,,,,,,,;

A semi-colon crapping itself.
3 / 5 (4) Oct 11, 2012
Wow, never would have guessed that ;) The idea we are equal is laughable :0 They should be treated with equality but we are essentially 2 different species and the day we ARE truly equal will be a dark day because then they would just be strange looking men :( The question on that day is will ALL the kids in the schoolyard be screaming or none?
3.5 / 5 (4) Oct 11, 2012
I use them a lot, and I am a man.

Words are not the best way of communicate. A symbol can carry as much meaning or more than words. Women probably use them more because they seem better at linguistic tasks than us.

But in complete agreement that the idea that we are equal is ridiculous, at best. We can have the same civil rights, but we are VERY different from women.

4.3 / 5 (4) Oct 11, 2012
Women probably use them more because they seem better at linguistic tasks than us.

I think it's much simpler than that. When men blab they blab about
a) a limited set of subjects within which it's already clear what kind of emotion is expressed (sex, tech, sports, binge-drinking, whatever. )
b) Factual stuff which needs no emoticons to enhance clarity.

Women often blab just for the blab's sake. (vastly overgeneralizing here but I do think there is a definite difference between male and female communication patterns as a whole)
1 / 5 (8) Oct 11, 2012
WTF is an emoticon? <:o|
2 / 5 (2) Oct 12, 2012
i am more into wordplay morphing and double meanings, i like the dry english humour that is often spoken/written in an, trying to hold your laugh, emoticonless way. the best wine doesn't emoticons it needs connaisseurs....
3 / 5 (1) Oct 12, 2012
the best wine doesn't emoticons it needs connaisseurs....

...and good wordplay requires a spellcheck and some basic proficiency with the language.

Otherwise the joke's on you.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.