Amount and Diversity of Digital Emotional Expression Predicts Happiness

by Laura Vuillier, Alison Wood Brooks, June Gruber, Rui Sun, Michael I. Norton, Matthew James Samson, Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Paul Piff, Sarah Fan, Jordi Quoidbach, Charles Gorintin, Pete Fleming, Arturo Bejar, and Dacher Keltner

Overview — Emoticons might seem trivial because they require just the tap of a finger, but this study shows how emoticons make a difference in overall emotion expression. People use emoticons to highlight the emotions they intend to convey, and emoticons also serve as predictors—and causes—of happiness and well-being.

Author Abstract

Emotional expression in digital form has become increasingly ubiquitous via the proliferation of computers and handheld devices. Using online surveys and live chat experiments across four studies and 1,325 individuals (Study 1A-B and 2A-B), and a large social media dataset spanning 4.9 billion individuals (Study 3), we examine whether digital emotion expression (emojis) predicts happiness at the individual and national levels. Our studies converge on three central findings. First, people use emojis in text-based communication to convey emotional experience. Second, the amount and diversity of emojis causally increases happiness during social interactions. Third, across 122 countries, higher total amount and greater diversity of emoji usage per capita and per user correlate with higher national happiness. Across levels of analysis, our results suggest that both the amount and diversity of digital emotion expression influences well-being.

Paper Information