A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Computer-Mediated Communication, Emojis and Trust
49 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2016 Last revised: 3 Dec 2019
Date Written: November 11, 2016
Communication is critical for economic cooperation and enhancement of trust. This becomes provocative in a digitally-oriented world. This paper reports the results of an experiment involving text messaging and emojis in laboratory trust games executed on mobile devices. Employing linguistic analysis and an emoji-classification coordination game to decompose chat logs, I find that trust increases dramatically with the introduction of computer-mediated communication (CMC) to one-shot games, while reciprocation increases only modestly. While promises matter when using text, there are greater welfare gains associated with emoji use, largely to the benefit of trustees. There is evidence that affective content, skin tone, and gender signals embedded in emojis impact sharing – suggestive of statistical discrimination. Receiving a dark skinned emoji has negative effect on trust for both light and dark skinned players, a result in conflict with some in-group literature. An emoji suggestive of a female counterpart garners more trust. In this way, computer-mediated communication leads to reduced gains for dark-skinned persons and increased surplus for women. These results highlight the complex social judgment that motivates trust in a anonymous counterpart.
Keywords: Investment Game, Emoji, CMC, Trust, Linguistic Analysis, Experiment, Stereotypes
JEL Classification: C78, C91, C92, D8, D63, D71
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation