Emoticons are processed as genuine expressions of emotion
Emoticons reduce semantic ambiguity and express emotional meaning in written communication. Our fluency in processing emoticons suggests they are more than mere symbols of feeling. Recent e vidence suggests that emoticons are processed configurally–recruiting face-specific neural processes to make sense of their meaning. If emoticons are automatically processed as face stimuli, emoticons should elicit fast-onset facial mimicry expressions similar to those elicited by real emotional expressions. Using electromyography, the present study examines whether normal (mouth to the right) and inverted (mouth to the left) emoticons elicit different patterns of mimicry responses. Mimicry responses of the upright and inverted emoticons were compared to photographed emotional expressions. Mimicry activity for upright emoticons was most similar to photographed emotional expressions. Mimicry activity for inverted emoticons was reduced or non-existent. These findings support the notion that emoticons are cognitively processed as real, emotional stimuli.