transfer 21(4) » Interpersonale Kommunikation

A picture (character) is worth a thousand words

A cross-cultural study on emojis and their effect on impression formation

As the popularity of emojis in computer-mediated communication (CMC) continues to soar, it becomes increasingly relevant to understand their impact on cognitive processes. The existing research gap in this area led this study to be among the first to examine the relationship between emojis and impression formation in a cross-cultural context. To do so, an online experiment was conducted in which Chinese and German participants were shown a text message either with or without emojis and asked to complete a questionnaire measuring their level of confidence in formed impressions of the message sender. Results from this study indicated that emojis’ presence in text messages and participants’ cultural background did not have an effect on impression formation. The cross-cultural comparison furthermore showed that the absence of emojis in text messages led German participants to be less confident in formed impressions than their Chinese counterparts. Theoretical implications of these results are discussed, especially with regard to the usability of Hall’s (1976) framework of high- and low-context cultures for contemporary cross-cultural studies.