Guillory, J. & Hancock, J.T. (2012, January). Emotional Expression and Contagion in Text-Based Communication. Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), San Diego, CA
Emotional contagion occurs robustly across face-to-face (FtF) interactions, but does this occur in text-based (TB) communication (instant messaging), which lacks nonverbal cues? Two studies demonstrate people’s ability to express, identify and “catch” emotional states in TB communication. In Study 1, communication partners were able to distinguish acted-out positive and negative emotional expressions of communication partners, who conveyed emotions with linguistic strategies. In Study 2, emotional contagion of negative emotion took place as induced emotion spread from one group member to two partners. Linguistic differences emerged in groups sharing negative emotion compared to those sharing no specific emotions. This supports Walther’s (1992) argument that people employ verbal cues in TB communication to convey relational information that would be transmitted via nonverbal cues in FtF, and suggests that Eckman’s (1982) claim regarding nonverbal markers of emotion (e.g., facial expression) may be strict requirements for catching emotions.