Study finds periods can make text messages seem insincere

By Daniel Uria   |   Dec. 9, 2015 at 4:57 PM
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BINGHAMTON, N.Y., Dec. 9 (UPI) -- A recent study has found that the choice of punctuation at the end of a text message can affect how sincere the message is perceived to be.

The Binghamton University study, entitled "Texting insincerely: the role of the period in text messaging", found that text messages ending in a period tended to be perceived as less sincere.

A follow-up study went on to prove that exclamation points, by comparison, are perceived as a more sincere form of punctuation.

"That's not surprising, but it broadens our claim," lead researcher Celia Klin said in a press release. "Punctuation is used and understood by texters to convey emotions and other social pragmatic information."

The study involved 126 undergraduate students who were asked to read a series of messages in both text message and handwritten form. The samples included 16 invitations met with one-word affirmative responses.

Students found the text message responses ending in periods to be less sincere than those with no punctuation; however, this discrepancy did not exist in the handwritten notes.

According to Kiln, these results indicate a specific relationship between punctuation and the social cues involved in communicating via text message.

"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," she said. "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."

Kiln attributes the perceived context of certain kinds of punctuation through text as opposed to handwriting or face-to-face speech as a natural progression of the medium.

Given that people are wonderfully adept at communicating complex and nuanced information in conversations, it's not surprising that as texting evolves, people are finding ways to convey the same types of information in their texts."

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