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      Expressing Emotions as Emoticons for Online Intelligent Agents

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      Proceedings of the 30th International BCS Human Computer Interaction Conference (HCI)


      11 - 15 July 2016

      emotions, emoticons, affective computing, user-centered design, virtual agents, online communication

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          Without emotional annotation, online communication can be ambiguous and lead to misunderstandings. This paper addresses the questions of which emotions are commonly expressed online, how these emotions can be encapsulated in emoticons, and how people respond to different emotions. In 10 focus groups with university students we found that some emotions are not frequently expressed online (e.g. aggravation, alienantion and torment), while many others were commonly used (e.g. enthusiasm, anger, amusement, amazement and disgust). Emoticons were drawn or described for nine commonly expressed emotions, and the response discussed. Audience was a key component in how people used emoticons, both for use and interpretation. Participants preferred to ‘defuse’ negative emotions such as anger and rage with light-hearted comments, supporting previous findings on a positivity bias on many social networks. These findings have implications for online communication and the design of intelligent virtual agents.

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          Most cited references 34

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          Emotion knowledge: further exploration of a prototype approach.

          Recent work on natural categories suggests a framework for conceptualizing people's knowledge about emotions. Categories of natural objects or events, including emotions, are formed as a result of repeated experiences and become organized around prototypes (Rosch, 1978); the interrelated set of emotion categories becomes organized within an abstract-to-concrete hierarchy. At the basic level of the emotion hierarchy one finds the handful of concepts (love, joy, anger, sadness, fear, and perhaps, surprise) most useful for making everyday distinctions among emotions, and these overlap substantially with the examples mentioned most readily when people are asked to name emotions (Fehr & Russell, 1984), with the emotions children learn to name first (Bretherton & Beeghly, 1982), and with what theorists have called basic or primary emotions. This article reports two studies, one exploring the hierarchical organization of emotion concepts and one specifying the prototypes, or scripts, of five basic emotions, and it shows how the prototype approach might be used in the future to investigate the processing of information about emotional events, cross-cultural differences in emotion concepts, and the development of emotion knowledge.
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            Looking at pictures: Affective, facial, visceral, and behavioral reactions

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              Universals and cultural differences in the judgments of facial expressions of emotion.

              We present here new evidence of cross-cultural agreement in the judgement of facial expression. Subjects in 10 cultures performed a more complex judgment task than has been used in previous cross-cultural studies. Instead of limiting the subjects to selecting only one emotion term for each expression, this task allowed them to indicate that multiple emotions were evident and the intensity of each emotion. Agreement was very high across cultures about which emotion was the most intense. The 10 cultures also agreed about the second most intense emotion signaled by an expression and about the relative intensity among expressions of the same emotion. However, cultural differences were found in judgments of the absolute level of emotional intensity.

                Author and article information

                July 2016
                July 2016
                : 1-9
                Computing Science

                University of Aberdeen

                © A. Smith et al. Published by BCS Learning and Development Ltd. Proceedings of British HCI 2016 Conference Fusion, Bournemouth, UK

                This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit

                Proceedings of the 30th International BCS Human Computer Interaction Conference
                Bournemouth University, Poole, UK
                11 - 15 July 2016
                Electronic Workshops in Computing (eWiC)
                Product Information: 1477-9358 BCS Learning & Development
                Self URI (journal page):
                Electronic Workshops in Computing


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