Want to Show Some Emotion? Send an Email

New research says writing process may cause emotional arousal in sender
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2015 11:42 AM CDT
Want to Show Some Emotion? Send an Email
Scientists say an email will get your emotion across better than a voicemail.   (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

If you want to convey something affectionate or romantic and you can't do it in person, it may be better to send an email than leave a voicemail. So report researchers at Indiana University Bloomington in the journal Computers in Human Behavior after analyzing both the messages being sent and the physical state of those doing the sending. Contrary to previous research and conventional wisdom suggesting that a voicemail message is more intimate than email, this study finds that, at least among the 72 college-age millennials analyzed, the act of writing produced in the sender far more emotional arousal and greater use of emotional language. The effect endures, too, since people tend to respond to messages using the same medium, thus the recipient may in turn experience similarly heightened emotions when replying, reports Pacific Standard.

"When writing romantic emails, senders consciously or subconsciously added more positive content to their messages, perhaps to compensate for the medium's inability to convey vocal tone," Dennis and Wells wrote in the paper. "Senders engage with email messages longer and may think about the task more deeply than when leaving voicemails. This extra processing may increase arousal." What's more, the students they studied have, they feel, adapted to the medium. "If you look at the new generation of millennials, and that's who we studied, they've grown up with email and text messaging," one researcher says. "So it may not be as unnatural a medium as we at first thought." Or, perhaps, voicemail is just more awkward. (Check out how men and women tend to differ during breakups.)

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