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Study: Sending emojis is linked to scoring more dates, sex

Emojis might contain more emotional information than meets the eye.


Key Takeaways
  • A new study shows that people who frequently used emojis in text messages with potential dates engaged in more sexual activity and had more contact with those dates.
  • However, the study only shows an association; it didn’t establish causality.
  • The authors suggest that emojis might help to convey nuanced emotional information that’s lacking in strictly text-based messaging.

Want to boost your chances of getting dates and having more sex? Use emojis in your text messages, suggests new research.

A new study, published in PLOS One on August 15, found that people who frequently used emojis in text messages engaged in more sexual activity and tended to have more dates and longer contact with their dates. The results suggest emojis contain more meaning than might initially be apparent.

“I was particularly interested in emojis because prior research on online dating has shown that shorter messages have the best response rate, which means that you have just a couple sentences to convey your personality, potential compatibility, and ‘hook’ that potential date,” study author Amanda Gesselman, the associate director for research and the Anita Aldrich Endowed Research Scientist at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, told PsyPost. “When we think about it like that, it seems impossible.”

Gesselman and her colleagues surveyed 5,327 single American adults about their emoji use, finding that 28.2 percent frequently used emojis in texts with potential dates, while 37.6 percent said they never did. Those who frequently sent emojis tended to engage in more sexual activity over the course of a year.

A second survey of 275 single American adults replicated that finding, and also showed that frequently using emojis was linked to maintaining a connection beyond the first date.

“It’s important to note that these were correlational studies and can’t speak to causality,” Gesselman explained to PsyPost. “We can’t say that using emojis more frequently causes more dating and sexual ‘success,’ but it is likely that people who use emojis more often are more emotionally expressive, and emotionally intelligent, a skill that tends to be important in forming satisfying relationships.”

Why might emojis be strategic in dating situations? The researchers wrote that texting lacks the nuanced emotional information that’s conveyed when talking to someone in person, such as body language and tone. Emojis replicate some of that emotional information, helping people better understand how to interpret messages, and avoid misunderstandings.

“Senders used emoticons to convey positive feelings or to denote a joke or irony, but also to provide a strength thermometer — either softening a harsh message or emphasizing a positive one,” the researchers wrote. “Other inquiries show that emoticons are generally received in these intended ways. For instance, in an experimental study using chat conversations, a reader’s mood was altered either positively or negatively by the respective emoticon.”

Still, it’s probably best not to overdo it — participants said, on average, that using more than three emojis in one message is a bit much.

“We think that this mirrors real-life emotional sharing — think about meeting someone new and having them tell you all about their private life and sharing strong emotions with you before you’ve reached a point and time where that’s normal,” Gesselman told PsyPost. “It feels strange and overwhelming. It seems that people feel the same in the digital context when interacting with someone they don’t know yet.”

The study didn’t examine which specific emojis people were sending, so it’s unclear which might help your dating prospects. But you can get some idea by checking out this infographic from the dating app Clover that shows which emojis its users were most likely to respond to.


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