That emoji might not say what you think it says


Fascinating look at how emojis can be interpreted differently by recipients because of a lack of standardisation in design. I’d also guess there was a lack of user testing too, to check if the intent of the designer and the brief is reflected in the reaction of the user.

Thanks to the variety of platform standardization, emoji you send may look different to the intended recipient. To find out how the variations impact the way people interpret emoji and conversation, researchers at the University of Minnesota’s GroupLens research lab conducted a survey using 22 human-like emoji across Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and LG platforms. Researchers asked 334 participants five questions, including what they considered the sentiment to be (positive or negative on a scale of -5 to 5), and when they would use the emoji in conversation.

The research was published in the paper “Blissfully happy” or “ready to fight”: Varying Interpretations of Emoji.

Researchers found that 40 percent of emoji tested had a “sentiment misconstrual score” of 2 or more, so when two people look at the same emoji, the sentiment disagreement between them would be greater than or equal to 2. And even people within the same platform wouldn’t agree on the whether the emoji leaned positive or negative—Apple’s in-platform sentiment misconstrual was 1.96, while Google’s was 1.79.



I don’t understand most emojis so I find the lack of agreement over their interpretation faintly reassuring.

I like and use the standard :slight_smile: , :frowning: :angry: [roll’s eye] (which I annoyingly can’t find) etc, but the proliferation of them has led me to getting completely lost. What’s the poo one about? And the aubergine? I have absolutely no clue. I could blame it on being too old but a) people my age and higher are using them quite happily and seemingly fluently and b) I never understood this sort of stuff even when I was the “right” age. We really need an emoji to English dictionary.



tbh, I don’t think anyone has “fluency” in emoji, people just go with the flow and use the ones they like. Some of the emoji have come to mean something specific within a small group, but a quick google usually sorts that out – eg the aubergine is a standing for a dick.

And as per the article, they are open to interpretation even amongst those who think they are “fluent”. So Just get creative and don’t worry about it.



The aubergine is a dick? Wow, I’ve led a sheltered life!



It sprang up from the gay community on places like Tinder, iirc, so it’s not that you’re sheltered!



I thought this was an interesting little article on the gender bias in emojis:

Meet the femojis: A new proposal to tip the gender imbalance online

What really struck me, though, was the last paragraph, which noted that the emphasis on emojis is distracting from efforts to create readable “rare grammar marks, ancient languages and minority dialects”. This does seem to be an oversight, particular with regards the minority dialects. Should the focus be shifted from emojis to getting these more linguistic aspects of code unified, or are emojis the way forward?



Short answer: Yes!