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We unfeeling, overly serious men use far fewer emoticons than women, study finds

While I'm not violently opposed to using emoticons in text messages, neither am I drawn to using them. I didn't even feel compelled to work one into the headline. Apparently, among guys, I'm not alone in my views on emoticons.

Rice University researchers have found that women are twice as likely to use emoticons, those little smiley and frowny faces used to punctuate texts and some emails in attempt to help convey mood. This National Science Foundation-funded study, designed to gain better understanding out how humans communicate via technology, was based on 124,000 text messages from men and women iPhone users over six months during which they did not know what the study was about (some 8 trillion text messages will be tapped out this year, Rice says).

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Rice found that 100% of study participants used emoticons in their texts, though only on 4% of messages in total.

Texting does not appear to require as much socio-emotional context as other means of nonverbal communications," said Philip Kortum, assistant professor of psychology at Rice and one of the study's authors, in a statement. "It could be due to texting's simplicity and briefer communication, which removes some of the pressures that are inherent in other types of non-face-to-face communication, like email or blogs."

The study, conducted by Rice and Georgia Tech researchers, confirmed previous research that women use emoticons more often than men, but did find men use a wider variety of emoticons. Among all participants, happy, sad and very happy were the most popular of 74 different emoticons used.

The study's co-authors were Chad Tossell, Clayton Shepard, Ahmad Rahmati and Lin Zhong, all of Rice University, and Laura Barg-Walkow at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The study was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and appeared in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

Bob Brown tracks network research in his Alpha Doggs blog and Facebook page, as well on Twitter and Google +. 

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