Your Bestie is as Good as a Total Stranger At Understanding You Via Text

I naturally assume that my mates know my awkward sense of humour and self derisive personality well enough to get more out of my written word than a stranger. In fact, my friends are more confident that they’ll understand my written word better as well. But it turns out that you, dear reader, are just as good as they are.

The belief that our friends will understand our written tone better than strangers is entirely unfounded in any research, but now the research is here to straighten everything out.

Monica A. Riordan and Lauren A. Trichtinger (Chatham University) published their findings in the journal Human Communication Research and what they found was that well, quite frankly, people suck at judging their own affect-detection skills. Not only that, but things like emoticons and exclamation points also did not have a positive effect on accuracy.

This last piece of information is bad news. Emoticons are being used in place of our expressions which aren’t portrayed in any other way through text. If a little smiley face isn’t interpreted as good humored happiness then we’re doomed.

It is clear from this study that readers can determine that we are angry, but cannot determine HOW angry.

“As e-mail, text messaging, and other forms of computer-mediated communication become more dominant forms of interaction, the communication of affect becomes more difficult, primarily because facial expressions, gestures, vocal intonation, and other forms of expressing emotion are lost,” said Monica A. Riordan, the c-publisher of the paper alongside Lauren A. Trichtinger at Chatham University. “It is clear from this study that readers can determine that we are angry, but cannot determine HOW angry. The loss of this subtlety could lead to consequences in many forms– especially in our relationships, where the difference between annoyance and rage can be vast, and a simple misinterpretation of an intended emotion can lead to a drastic alteration in that emotion.”

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This is pretty terrible, and annoying as well considering that everyone is highly confident in their e-mail writing and reading abilities.

So I guess the best we can do is keep refining our written system until we can properly understand each others moods. Either that or be a bit more understanding when you hit a miscommunication with someone.

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