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Emotional responses to irony and emoticons in written language: Evidence from EDA and facial EMG

Thompson, Dominic ; Mackenzie, Ian G. ; Leuthold, Hartmut ; Filik, Ruth

Psychophysiology, July 2016, Vol.53(7), pp.1054-1062 [Peer Reviewed Journal]

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  • Title:
    Emotional responses to irony and emoticons in written language: Evidence from EDA and facial EMG
  • Author/Creator: Thompson, Dominic ; Mackenzie, Ian G. ; Leuthold, Hartmut ; Filik, Ruth
  • Subjects: Irony ; Emoticons ; Psychophysiology ; Language
  • Is Part Of: Psychophysiology, July 2016, Vol.53(7), pp.1054-1062
  • Description: While the basic nature of irony is saying one thing and communicating the opposite, it may also serve additional social and emotional functions, such as projecting humor or anger. Emoticons often accompany irony in computerÔÇÉmediated communication, and have been suggested to increase enjoyment of communication. In the current study, we aimed to examine online emotional responses to ironic versus literal comments, and the influence of emoticons on this process. Participants read stories with a final comment that was either ironic or literal, praising or critical, and with or without an emoticon. We used psychophysiological measures to capture immediate emotional responses: electrodermal activity to directly measure arousal and facial electromyography to detect muscle movements indicative of emotional expressions. Results showed higher arousal, reduced frowning, and enhanced smiling for messages with rather than without an emoticon, suggesting that emoticons increase positive emotions. A tendency toward less negative responses (i.e., reduced frowning and enhanced smiling) for ironic than literal criticism, and less positive responses (i.e., enhanced frowning and reduced smiling) for ironic than literal praise suggests that irony weakens the emotional impact of a message. The present findings indicate the utility of a psychophysiological approach in studying online emotional responses to written language.
  • Identifier: ISSN: 0048-5772 ; E-ISSN: 1469-8986 ; DOI: 10.1111/psyp.12642