Emoticon, Emoji, and Sticker Use in Computer-Mediated Communication: A Review of Theories and Research Findings

Ying Tang, Khe Foon Hew


In this study, we conduct a systematic review of the theories and empirical research findings related to the use of emoticons, emoji, and stickers in computer-mediated communication. The studies were collected from 11 databases in the fields of communication, linguistics, and psychology between 1996 and 2017. A total of 51 articles were analyzed. This study offers 3 new contributions. First, it clarifies the definitions of emoticon, emoji, and sticker to reduce the terminological confusion in the literature. Second, it presents a scheme for classifying theories/models into two main orientations—relationship and understanding—providing a parsimonious way of examining how various theories/models have underpinned different research studies. Third, it synthesizes the main research findings on why and how people use emoticons, emoji, and stickers and the effects of using these elements. We conclude with a discussion of the limitations in this study and recommendations for further inquiry.


emoticon, emoji, sticker, computer-mediated communication, theories, findings

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