Yes, There’s a Scientific Reason You Love Emojis—Here’s Why

Can't communicate how you feel? A new study reveals our emotions are quite complex.

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You can choose from over 2,600 emojis to express yourself, even though you may want to limit your emoji use in work emails. Now, new research suggests the genius in this Japanese invention—emojis have a fascinating history—is the way they give us the ability to visually communicate emotions far more subtle than the widely accepted six universal ones: happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear and disgust.

For the new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, UC Berkley researchers collected reactions from more than 800 men and women. The volunteers viewed 2,000 different video images designed to provoke a variety of emotions—the content included births and deaths, proposals and weddings, snakes and spiders, and much more. The researchers carefully tracked the volunteers’ reactions and used statistical models to map out the data from these emotional roller coasters.

“We found that 27 distinct dimensions, not six, were necessary to account for the way hundreds of people reliably reported feeling in response to each video,” said Dacher Keltner, UC Berkeley psychology professor who is the senior author on the study and an expert on the science of emotions in ScienceDaily. “Emotional experiences are so much richer and more nuanced than previously thought,” said study lead author Alan Cowen, a doctoral student in neuroscience at UC Berkeley. “Their responses reflected a rich and nuanced array of emotional states, ranging from nostalgia to feeling ‘grossed out,'” he said.

All this helps explain why emojis leapt to popularity overnight. In fact, a Bangor University study found that 72 percent of study participants between the ages of 18 and 25 felt more comfortable using an emoji over words to say how they felt. So what are those 27 distinct emotions? Here you go:

  • Admiration
  • Adoration
  • Aesthetic Appreciation
  • Amusement
  • Anxiety
  • Awe
  • Awkwardness
  • Boredom
  • Calmness
  • Confusion
  • Craving
  • Disgust
  • Empathetic pain
  • Entrancement
  • Envy
  • Excitement
  • Fear
  • Horror
  • Interest
  • Joy
  • Nostalgia
  • Romance
  • Sadness
  • Satisfaction
  • Sexual desire
  • Sympathy
  • Triumph

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