This article originally appeared on Motherboard.
Picture this: A friend from work cancels for drinks because she feels sick. If your first instinct is to text a sick emoji with soup and zzzs, you might be a nicer person at heart than someone who just says "OK".
Emojis could be a form of communication as real as words, a study suggests. Researchers argue you can read between the smilies to figure out someone's personality—and nicer people may use emojis more often.
In a study published this week in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, psychologists suggest emojis have become akin to nonverbal cues like facial expression or hand gestures. A wink or a dancing woman could be as important to understanding the other person's meaning—and their personality—as a raised eyebrow or a shy smile. They can signal friendliness.
"If you look at personality traits, like agreeableness, how amenable you are to other people, it seems to be related to whether you use emojis or not," said co-author Linda Kaye, a cyberpsychologist at Edge Hill University, in a release.
While emojis are sometimes used to reduce ambiguity, such as making sure someone knows you're teasing them, they're also sometimes intentionally used to convey tone that is lost in digital communication. Conversations with emojis tended to be more carefully considered than a face-to-face conversation, where facial expressions are fluid and unintentional.
The study authors also suggest researchers could leverage the implicit emotion conveyed in emojis when conducting psychological research. It may even be possible to consider emojis as "true forms of emotion."