Researchers at Ben-Gurion University (BGU), the University of Haifa and Amsterdam University conducted experiments with almost 550 participants from 29 countries.
Ella Glikson, a postdoctoral fellow at BGU, said in a news release, "Our findings provide first-time evidence that, contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence," adding that, "In formal business emails, a smiley is not a smile."
In one of the experiments, participants read similar (and anonymous) work-related emails and then rated the sender's warmth and competence. Only some of the emails contained smiles. The results showed that the smileys had no effect on the reader's perception of sincerity and warm. In fact, the results revealed that people who sent smiley-laden emails were perceived as incompetent.
"The study also found that when the participants were asked to respond to emails on formal matters, their answers were more detailed and they included more content-related information when the email did not include a smiley," Dr. Glikson said. "We found that the perceptions of low competence if a smiley is included in turn undermined information sharing."
Another experiment compared smileys to smiling or neutral photographs. The results show that the smiling photograph sender is perceived as friendlier and more competent than the neutral sender. Once again, the opposite results were seen in emails on work-related matters, where the sender including a smiley in the email was considered less capable.
In addition, the findings showed that recipients who received emails including smileys are more likely to presume that the sender is female.
So, it may be time to lay off the smiley emojis.
"People tend to assume that a smiley is a virtual smile, but the findings of this study show that in the case of the workplace, at least as far as initial 'encounters' are concerned, this is incorrect," Dr. Glikson said.
"For now, at least, a smiley can only replace a smile when you already know the other person. In initial interactions, it is better to avoid using smileys, regardless of age or gender."