What do we infer about people from the style of their e-mail messages?

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Previous studies of blogging and e-mail correspondence have focused on how writers express personality traits and emotion in their writing. This study complements these earlier studies by focusing on how these messages are perceived by others. A total of 166 undergraduate students made judgments about the senders of e-mails in which the person (first vs. third) that the message was written in was manipulated along with the presence or absence of expressive punctuation and typographical errors. Messages written in the third person were perceived as angrier and more likely to be written by someone in a supervisory relationship with the recipient of the e-mail, and the presence or absence of question marks and/or exclamation points was a strong determinant of the judgments that were made about the sender’s emotional state and relationship with the recipient. Messages with a high frequency of expressive punctuation were also more likely to be perceived as having been written by a female. The results suggest that stylistic features of e-mail messages may be an overlooked but influential component of people’s reactions to the electronic discourse that they have with others.

Source: “Electronic Person Perception, What Do We Infer About People From the Style of Their E-mail Messages?” from Social Psychological and Personality Science July 2011 vol. 2 no. 4 403-407

I’ve also posted about whether you can you learn about someone’s personality from their email address and whether those legal warnings at the bottom of emails would hold up in court.

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