Do women make more use of emoticons?

Women are more likely to express their feelings through emoticons in text messages than their male counterparts. This is the suggestion of new research from Rice University, which found females tend to use the graphic symbols - such as a smiley face - twice as much as men.

The symbols are used to help convey the sender's mood and provide clarity and context to the message being sent, ensuring the meaning of the text is not misconstrued.

According to the study, all participants used emoticons in one form or another over a six-month period, although some included them in their messages much more often than others.

Philip Kortum, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the learning institute, explained texting does not need as much socio-emotional context as other forms of communication.

"It could be due to texting's simplicity and briefer communication, which removes some of the pressures that are inherent in other types of non-face-to-face communication, like email or blogs," Mr Kortum added.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Susan Marchant-Haycox comments:

"The suggestion that non-verbal communication expressed via emoticons is more prevalent among females than males is not a great finding. Moreover, to indicate that ‘the symbols used help convey the sender’s mood and provide clarity and context to the message being sent' is giving a lot of weight to participants’ emotional state.

"Symbols have hidden meanings and it is not always the most obvious ones that reveal a hidden message. People often use symbols to disguise their mood. The fact that men used a wider variety of emoticons suggests they put more thought and imagination into what they send. This suggests that they are more expressive in their messages, than women. 

Judging non-verbal communication in an artificial environment can be misleading.  Better to advance more to ‘real-world’ situations for conclusive evidence of expressed emotionality between the sexes."