You know that friend who always ends her texts with a full stop? Well, she's a monster according to science.
Texting is a minefield of miscommunication and despite ourselves, we've all felt slightly affronted by a full stop at the end of a text message at some point. And now we have a legtimate excuse that is backed up by people in labcoats.
Researchers and Binghamton University, led by Celia Klin, recently reported that text messages ending with a full stop are perceived as being less sincere. The study, which was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, basically implied the people who send full stops are heartless. Now we're all panic checking our text messages to check whether we're monsters or not.
To test the social and emotional effects of the full stop within computer-mediated communication (or texting, to you and me) the researchers presented 126 students with a series of dialogues framed as either text messages or handwritten notes.
The messages featured an invitation followed by a brief reply. When said reply was followed by a full stop, the subjects perceived the response as less sincere than when no punctuation was used.
According to Klin, the power of the full stop has been elevated beyond merely a way to end sentences. It is now also means to to put our passive agressive tendencies to good use and inflict psychological warfare upon everyone in our phonebooks.
Interestingly, the effect wasn't present in handwritten notes. Does this mean our phones are making us more sensitive to the nuances of language? Actually, Klin explained: 'When speaking, people convey information with facial expressions, tone of voice, pauses, and so on...People can't use these mechanisms when they are texting. Thus, it makes sense that texters rely on what they have available to them — emoticons, deliberate misspellings that mimic speech sounds and, according to our data, punctuation."
Klin also reported that further research suggests that exclamation marks make your messages seem more sincere than no punctuation at all.
So if you're worried your mates think you're a sociopath because of your strict adherance to the correct use of punctuation via Whatsapp, play it safe and text-yell everything(!) and throw in some emojis for good measure... *kissing cat face with closed eyes, sparkling heart, face with look of triumph*
Words by Francesca Donovan