Emojis in Deceptive Online Communication: The Frequency and Type of Emoji in Deceptive and NonDeceptive Online Messages

Michelle Walther1, *, Petar Petrov2, Ryan Smith2, Danielle Young2, Peter W. de Vries1, Marielle Stel1
1 Department of Psychology of Conflict, University of Twente, Risk, and Safety, Enschede, Netherlands
2 Department of Psychology, University of Strathclyde, Stirling, Scotland

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© 2022 Walther et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Psychology of Conflict, Risk, and Safety, De Zul 10, 7522NJ Enschede, The Netherlands; Tel: +49(0) 151 20292959; E-mail:



Little research has been done on nonverbal deception cues in computer-mediated communication (CMC). However, deception is a daily occurrence and since much communication is shifting towards CMC, it is important to understand the difference between truthful and deceptive messages.


This research obtained more insight in the use of emoji in deceptive messages by answering the question: Are the frequency and type of emoji different in deceptive compared to truthful online messages?


Participants sent three screenshots of deceptive, and truthful messages to WhatsApp. The used emoji were counted and sorted into levels of valence (positive, negative, and neutral) and intensity (strong versus weak).


The results indicated that participants used more negative, weak emoji in deceptive compared with truthful messages and more positive, weak, and strong emoji in truth compared with deceit. No difference was found for the emoji frequency.


The results are discussed in the light of earlier research. However, this is the first study investigating the use of emoji in the context of computer-mediated deception.


The type of emoji can be indicative of the veracity as a nonverbal deception cue in online messages.

Keywords:: Deception, Emoji, Nonverbal cues, Computer-mediated communication, Online messages, Online communication.