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Informatics study into emoji skin tone finds no negative effect on user perception

Alexander Robertson led a study exploring the connection between identity signals and beliefs when considering the skin tone of an emoji against factual truth. The research is a continuation of previous work showing that Twitter users use skin-toned emoji as an act of self-representation to express racial/ethnic identity.

3 emojis with different skin tones

In this latest study by the University of Edinburgh, the main identity signal of interest was the use of skin-toned emojis. It was tested whether signal of identity can influence readers' perceptions about the content of a Twitter post containing that signal.

In a large scale pre-registered controlled experiment, Alexander and his research team manipulated the presence of skin-toned emoji and profile photos in a task where readers rate obscure trivia facts as true or false. 

Using a Bayesian statistical analysis, they found that neither emoji nor profile photo influences how readers rate these facts. This result will be of some comfort to anyone concerned about the manipulation of online users through the crafting of fake profiles. 

The paper is titled 'Identity Signals in Emoji Do not Influence Perception of Factual Truth on Twitter' and is published as part of the International Workshop on Emoji Understanding and Applications in Social Media 2021 journal.

Related links

Journal paper 

Prior study on use of yellow emojis as neutral symbols of identity