While communication via e-mail has been long thought to be a cold and distant medium, new research from Indiana University suggests that it’s actually a better method for expressing loving feelings — at least compared to a voicemail message.
“The bottom line is that email is much better when you want to convey some information that you want someone to think about,” said Alan R. Dennis, one of the study’s authors and Chair of Internet Systems in IU’s Kelley School of Business.
The purpose of the study was to learn more about how we respond emotionally to these newer forms of communication like e-mail and text.
In order to test out the different forms of communication, the researchers used psychophysiological measures from 72 college-age people and found that people who sent romantic emails were more emotionally aroused and used stronger and more thoughtful language than those who left voicemails.
The subjects had skin sensors placed on his or her face to measure muscle movement associated with positive and negative emotion, as well as on the feet to measure arousal. Subjects were randomly chosen to do voicemail or email first and produce a utilitarian or a romantic message first.
“When writing romantic emails, senders consciously or subconsciously added more positive content to their messages, perhaps to compensate for the medium’s inability to convey vocal tone,” according to the team’s research paper “To Email or Not to Email: The Impact of Media on Psychophysiological Responses and Emotional Content in Utilitarian and Romantic Communication.”
According to the findings, people were able to modify their messages to make sure they sounded right and fit the situation. People took more time choosing their words carefully and methodically. Voicemail is more spontaneous and does not allow for people to apply as much thought and effort.
“Thus senders engage with email messages longer and may think about the task more deeply than when leaving voicemails. This extra processing may increase arousal,” the team wrote.
Learn more about the research at Indiana University.