Understanding Emoji Ambiguity in Context: The Role of Text in Emoji-Related Miscommunication


  • Hannah Miller University of Minnesota
  • Daniel Kluver University of Minnesota
  • Jacob Thebault-Spieker University of Minnesota
  • Loren Terveen University of Minnesota
  • Brent Hecht Northwestern University




Recent studies have found that people interpret emoji characters inconsistently, creating significant potential for miscommunication. However, this research examined emoji in isolation, without consideration of any surrounding text. Prior work has hypothesized that examining emoji in their natural textual contexts would substantially reduce potential for miscommunication. To investigate this hypothesis, we carried out a controlled study with 2,482 participants who interpreted emoji both in isolation and in multiple textual contexts. After comparing the variability of emoji interpretation in each condition, we found that our results do not support the hypothesis in prior work: when emoji are interpreted in textual contexts, the potential for miscommunication appears to be roughly the same. We also identify directions for future research to better understand the interplay between emoji and textual context.




How to Cite

Miller, H., Kluver, D., Thebault-Spieker, J., Terveen, L., & Hecht, B. (2017). Understanding Emoji Ambiguity in Context: The Role of Text in Emoji-Related Miscommunication. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 11(1), 152-161. https://doi.org/10.1609/icwsm.v11i1.14901