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Wait wdym?: examining the (mis)perception of emotional valence in text messaging across generations

Apgar, Catherine Teresa (2022) Wait wdym?: examining the (mis)perception of emotional valence in text messaging across generations. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In a series of two experiments, I determined the frequency with which individuals under 25 and over 50 use certain paralinguistic features to convey emotion, and the accuracy with which individuals in these same age groups interpret the emotion contained in text messages. Previous research suggests that younger individuals interpret text-final periods to be more negative in tone, while older individuals interpret it to be neutral. I found that although the older group used them more than the younger group overall, both groups produced text-final periods more frequently in negative contexts than in positive or neutral contexts. Several effects highlighted difficulties in interpreting tone in text messages. (a) Sad texts were more inaccurately interpreted than neutral texts. (b) Texts from older individuals were generally interpreted less accurately than those from younger individuals. (c) Although I expected that participants would have more difficulty interpreting tone when a text was sent by a person much younger or older than the participant, when interpreting tone in texts from younger individuals, it was the older participants (compared to younger) who were more accurate in assessing the text’s tone. A similar trend followed for texts from older individuals: younger participants (compared to the older) were better at interpreting negative texts from older individuals. Overall, younger text senders appear better than older senders at ensuring their tone is conveyed accurately. However, younger text recipients may have a bias to interpret texts more negatively than intended, resulting in greater errors in interpretation of tone in positive messages regardless of the age of the sender.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Apgar, Catherine Teresacta14@pitt.educta140000-0002-0048-3642
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairFraundorf,
Committee MemberWarren,
Committee MemberKucinski,
Committee MemberRiordan,
Date: 25 April 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 13 April 2022
Approval Date: 25 April 2022
Submission Date: 21 April 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 81
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: texting, communication, digital divide
Date Deposited: 25 Apr 2022 17:39
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2022 17:39


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