On the occasion of The Oxford Dictionaries revealing the Word of the Year not to be a word, but a picture – the emoji Face with Tears of Joy – I think it is time to consider the good old question: is a picture worth a thousand words?
However the answer is complex. Some claim that the sense of sight is more important to us human beings than any other sense. Others says that it is an oversimplification and that the way our senses influence each other is yet to be discovered. And mayby it depends on the type of person you are.
“We are visual creatures,” says E. Clea Warburton, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Bristol. “Our brain has got more cortex devoted to processing visual information compared to that from our other senses. We are programmed to be encoding and retrieving visual information much more so than auditory information.”
What I think is interesting about the election of the ‘Word’ of the Year in relation my project is the increased focus on pictures, visual language and faces. Faces are trending.
What is it about these faces? It is true, that it is faster to send an emoji than writing: I laugh so much it makes me cry , LOL or LMAO.
Seing that little laughing face has another kind of impact on us, than just the written words. It appeals to us in a fundamental way because we are evolutionary programmed to react to the face.
- Did you know that a new born baby less than an hour old can trace a picture of a face longer than anything else?
- Did you know that face-blindness i.e. the inability to remember and recognize faces is a serious handicap and that it is called Prosopagnosia.
- Did you know that a happy face can comfort us, and that we are attracted to smiles and positive attitudes?
I don’t know the background for choosing the Face with Tears of Joy – and not Face with Heart shaped Eyes or Winking Face emojis. But I recently read that for us to interpret a face as being truly happy and not just smiling out of politeness or faking a smile there is at least two features that must be present:
A joyous smile (a truly happy smile) also called a Duchenne smile is when the muscles around the eyes are activated. That is precisely what the Face with Tears of Joy is doing which is different from most other smiling emoji.
And of course we are communicating and selling by means of happy smiling faces when using characters in branding.
Here the recent example of a smiling Band-Aid that will comfort you if you are in pain, afraid or feeling lonely.