A smiley face emoji is certainly easy to type out, and may seem friendly. But according to a study from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, it might undermine the sender’s professional credibility.
The research, published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal, involved participants being asked to read work-related emails from an unknown sender, some containing smileys and some without. The researchers found that while the inclusion of a happy face had no effect on the reader’s perception of warmth, it made them think the sender was less competent.
In another experiment, participants were asked to look at a photograph of a person with either a smiling or a neutral facial expression. Those with beaming grins were deemed more competent and friendlier than their neutral counterparts. However, when asked what they thought of the sender of an email containing smileys, they rated the sender as less competent, though it did not alter their perception of their friendliness.
“Our findings provide first-time evidence that, contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence,” says Dr Ella Glikson, a post-doctorate fellow at the university. “In formal business emails, a smiley is not a smile.”