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The effects of smileys on receivers’ emotions

Katja Lohmann (Department of Marketing, Chemnitz University of Technology, Chemnitz, Germany)
Sebastian Stefan Pyka (Department of Marketing, Chemnitz University of Technology, Chemnitz, Germany)
Cornelia Zanger (Department of Marketing, Chemnitz University of Technology, Chemnitz, Germany)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 11 September 2017




Nowadays, computer-mediated communication (CMC) is an inherent part of consumers’ daily interactions. That kind of communication, however, is associated with limited options to express emotions and, thus, impairs smooth interactions. Considering these shortcomings, existing research has paid attention to the use of smileys and examines their impacts on communication. Nevertheless, little is known about the effects of smileys on the receivers’ emotions as well as on the interaction between the communication partners. Against this background, the study aims to investigate the appropriateness of smileys in causing emotional contagion in CMC. That interpersonal mechanism fosters harmonic interactions and strengthens the relationship between interaction partners by sharing emotions.


Field data of 1,745 females were obtained through an online experiment applying two scenarios that only differ by the use of either a positive or a negative smiley. The appropriateness of both smileys to express positive or negative emotions was pretested in a study with 18 respondents.


The findings support the assumption that emotions expressed by smileys affect receivers’ emotions through the process of emotional contagion. Furthermore, the effects of the negative smiley on the emotions of the receivers are moderated by the receivers’ susceptibility to emotional contagion.


Findings contribute to current research on CMC by offering a deeper understanding of the impacts of smileys on interactions. In that way, the present study underlines the suitability of smileys to stimulate emotional contagion in a “cueless” environment.



Lohmann, K., Pyka, S.S. and Zanger, C. (2017), "The effects of smileys on receivers’ emotions", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 34 No. 6, pp. 489-495.



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