While emojis have their place and aren’t going away anytime soon, new research published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior shows that professionals should be more cautious when utilizing them in professional settings. It turns out that men and women see emojis differently, which might lead to misunderstandings.
Lara Jones, a psychologist at Wayne State University, and her colleagues enlisted the help of nearly 300 college students to determine how often they used emojis, which ones they knew, and how they interpret common emojis for the study. Unsurprisingly, they discovered that college students use emojis frequently, that women use them slightly more than males on average, and that everyone prefers to communicate with close friends over the boss.
So far, there have been no surprises. Things got more fascinating when the researchers contrasted how men and women viewed the identical emoji. Women, it turns out, are far more likely than males to read neutral or ambiguous facial emoticons negatively.
See Also: Now You Can Make WhatsApp Chats Disappear By Default After 90 Days
“The ‘thinking emoji’ is a perfect illustration,” Jones told The Wall Street Journal. “Men perceive it as slightly good, whereas women perceive it as slightly negative.” The happy face with horns and the eyebrows lifted face are two other emojis that are seen differently by men and women. Men were somewhat more likely than women to use emojis at work, according to the survey.
The practical difference in reacting on emojis
Are these findings so shocking that they make you want to quit using emojis at work? Obviously not. The differences are minor, and they don’t imply that one gender is more “correct” than the other when it comes to how the monkey and winking emoji are interpreted. But, as the study’s authors point out, that doesn’t imply there aren’t any practical implications.
The best answer, as with many other subtle variances in communication preferences between groups, is probably simply awareness. Knowing that different people have different views and preferences can help you better adapt your messages to your audience and understand and resolve any misunderstandings that may arise.
Jones recommends tailoring your emojis to the recipient’s gender (assuming you don’t know them well) and not using emojis at all when there is a significant power or cultural divide between sender and recipient, at least until you get a better sense of the other person’s preferences and communication style.