One Emoji is worth a thousand words? Emojis VS real emotions

  • Recent studies assure that people react the same way to a smiley face emoticon as they do to a smiling human face.
  • The brain processes the content of images and visual icons in only 13 milliseconds.
  • Icons avoid certain emotional charges: for example, an emoticon of a heart instead of an “I love you” can be seen as a message without any commitment or implication

Barcelona, July 16, 2019.- Small images or icons commonly known as emojis have crept into the written language of people who use electronic systems to communicate as a way to express or emphasize feelings or facts. The expression “a picture is worth a thousand words” sometimes makes sense, because the brain processes them faster, in just 13 thousandths of a second, according to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Its use is very useful for all those people who do not have as much capacity to express emotions, and thus feel more confident, or for those who do not dedicate so much time to it.

“We live immersed in fleeting and superficial relationships. The excessive use of emoticons can prevent us from establishing deeper and more solid bonds, dealing superficially with something as important as affective feelings, which would deserve more reflection or even a conversation,” explains Psychologist Carolina Álvarez, member of Top Doctors, on the occasion of World Emoji Day, which is celebrated next July 17.

Studies indicate that people react the same way to a smile coming from an emoticon than from a human face.

The emoticon arises in 1999 by Shigetaka Kurita who designed 176 emojis in 1999 for ntt Docomo, a Japanese company of mobile communication. And they are born to add an emotional component that text lacks. It was the use of WhatsApp what has made it become a natural element of expression, which has come to spread even in the workplace “Written communication lacks body language, ie everything that awakens a person when we have it in front of us: gestures, movements etc.. Emojis try to replace them, and they have succeeded, integrating themselves in a natural way in written conversations. In fact, there are recent studies that assure that people react in the same way to a smiley face emoticon than to a smiling human face”, assures psychologist Carolina Álvarez.

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“I love you”


Tell me how you express yourself and I will tell you how you are.

It may happen that “sender and receiver do not interpret an emoticon in the same way, or that emojis do not manage to bring to the communication the nuances that a traditional conversation entails,” explains María Gallego, health psychologist and member of Top Doctors. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” adds Gallego, “as long as the interlocutors interpret the same thing when they see it.” In fact, the use of one icon or another, as well as its interpretation, can vary depending on external factors surrounding the interlocutors, as well as their personality. Edge Hill University (UK) recently conducted a study in which, after analyzing different conversations in chats and social networks, they observed that people who used positive emoticons or those expressing happiness were those with a more open or extroverted personality.

On the other hand, these icons can be used to avoid saying something at a given moment. “It depends on the moment, a heart icon instead of an “I love you” can be seen as a message to get out of the way without committing and getting so involved. It is advisable that certain feelings are expressed as sincerely and clearly as possible, if we want the receiver to interpret it correctly and we achieve the purpose,” comments Alvarez.