University researchers find humans do interpret emojis as language

The University of Illinois has published research showing humans do interpret emojis as a form of language.
Student researchers at the University of Illinois have found that the human brain interprets emojis like words.

The research team measured the brain activity of a group of people who were tasked to read a sentence.

Several sentences were used in the study, including ‘living with him as a roommate would be terrible 😉'. 

Participants in the study would then read the sentence before being asked to interpret the meaning of the statement. 

Speaking to The Daily Illini, a student newspaper, doctoral student Benjamin Weissman spoke about the methods used:

“That lets us know what their interpretation of the sentence is, so we can see who is responding to the sentence just based on the words alone and who is responding to it opposite the words alone,” 

He further commented that the study allowed the research team to divide participants into two groups. In one group, people that focussed on the words literally. And in the second group: people that focussed on the added meaning with the emoji.

The study found that most of the participants would also factor in the emoji when interpreting the sentence.

The student researchers also discovered that emojis used in an ironic way were interpreted in the same way as an ironic statement.

Weissman concluded the results of the study, stating: 'This writing technology came out later so it is not fully equipped to handle all the things that language can do, but emojis are sort of a step in that direction helping us to handle other communicative properties that language has.'

Emojis continue to grow in popularity and scale. Facebook recently revealed emoji popularity on their social network. Over 700 million emojis are used in posts every day - while over 900 million emojis are sent every day without text.
Lauren Williams 20 Sep 2018

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