Monday, February 17, 2014

Emoticons are processed as human faces by our brains

It's amazing to see how technology shapes our society, and also our brains, as it has now been demonstrated by a fascinating study that tested how we interpret and recognize emoticons and smiley characters. Not long ago, most people would thing these :-) characters were some kind of weird typo in a text. Now, almost everybody has learned to "see" them as smiley faces. But it's actually more than that.

Our brain has evolved to have specialized face recognition areas, that sometimes surprise us (as in the case of inverted faces). And the fun fact is nowadays, people have grown so accustomed to emoticons that their smiley faces are now processed as being actual faces by our brain and not as a symbols.

But in order for that to happen you have to stick to the most common smiley figures like :-) because less common types, like the inverted smiley (-: do not activate the face recognition areas of our brain and are still interpreted as symbols that mean something - not as an implicit "face".

I myself am fond of the shortened smiley version of :) and too can confirm that whenever I see one, I immediately see a face (to the point that I sometimes have to figure out ways of not using a ":)" combination when it's not an actual emoticon). What about you... is your brain already "smiley" trained?

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