By Troy Watkins
When Alecka Camp ’17 heard an upcoming phone update would include new emojis, she was surprised by the level of interest. “I remember thinking why are we so obsessed with these tiny little smiley faces?” she recalls.
The wondering led Camp to accept an invitation from Alex Daniel, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, to partner with him on a research project. “What interested me most about this project was the applied aspect of it,” says Daniel.
The project paired Camp’s interest in social media and curiosity about emojis with Dr. Daniel’s expertise in cognition. Their study and resulting paper, titled “Emojis Affect Processing Fluency on Social Media,” was the first of its kind. “I was especially interested in our results,” Dr. Daniel explains. “Participants in the study indicated that when they saw a message with an appropriate emoji, they rated the content easier to understand and more believable than when there was either a conflicting emoji or no emoji present.”
The co-authored article was published in the January issue of Psychology of Popular Media Culture, a quarterly publication of the American Psychological Association. It marked the first time the University’s Department of Psychology had an article published in this journal. “The journal has high standards, and this project fit perfectly into its content area,” says Dr. Daniel. “They liked our project and its results.”
Publication of the journal article led to a piece in The Boston Globe.
Since earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2017, Camp has moved to the Atlanta area, where she is an executive assistant to the principal of NextPhase Search, an executive and administration search firm. She also works in the entertainment industry as an actress and model.
Camp has maintained contact with Dr. Daniel, and the duo is collaborating on a follow-up study. “He is an awesome mentor, and he’s allowed me to share any research ideas with him, no matter how silly they may seem,” Camp says. “I was skeptical about my emoji idea at first, but publishing the paper validated my curiosity.”
Dr. Daniel is excited about the future of this area of study as well. “I think that others will build upon our research. Emojis are so widely used in our everyday lives. I hope that other researchers will also try to understand how these little symbols impact our perception of the world.”