Has it ever happened to you that you are casually chatting with someone and that other person starts using full stops all of a sudden. You get worked up, you think what did you do wrong that the other guy has turned so serious?
A new study has found that text messages that end with a period are perceived to be less sincere than messages that do not.
A team of researchers at the Binghamton University in New York recruited 126 graduates who read a series of exchanges that appeared either as text messages or as handwritten notes.
In the 16 experimental exchanges, the sender’s message contained a statement followed by an invitation phrased as a question (eg, Dave gave me his extra tickets. Wanna come?).
The receiver’s response was an affirmative one-word response (Okay, Sure, Yeah, Yup).
There were two versions of each experimental exchange – one in which the receiver’s response ended with a period and one in which it did not end with any punctuation.
Based on the participants’ responses, text messages that ended with a period were rated as less sincere than text messages that did not end with a period.
Even though most of the important social and contextual cues were missing, the sincerity of the short messages was evaluated differently depending on the presence or absence of a period. The results indicate that punctuation influences the perceived meaning of text messages.
“Texting is lacking many of the social cues used in actual face-to-face conversations. When speaking, people easily convey social and emotional information with eye gaze, facial expressions, tone of voice, pauses, and so on,” said Celia Klin, a professor at Binghamton University who led the study.
“People obviously can’t use these mechanisms when they are texting. Thus, it makes sense that texters rely on what they have available to them – emoticons, deliberate misspellings that mimic speech sounds and, according to our data, punctuation,” she added.
The researchers found that a text response with an exclamation mark is interpreted as more, rather than less, sincere. “Punctuation is used and understood by texters to convey emotions and other social and pragmatic information,” Klin said.
The findings were published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour.