Media Project: How Many Emojis are Needed to Get Your Feelings Across? It Turns Out That 27 Might Be the Right Answer.

The use of emojis as a form of communicating emotions over text and social media is a growing trend among people of today’s society. As this trend grows, so does the number of new emojis describing “different” feelings, such as the recent additions of the “pondering face” or the “brain explosion” that have become so popular with today’s youth. But are all these additions really necessary? Do the basics of sad, happy, and angry no longer suffice? An experimental study from the University of California on emotions suggests that now, humans can experience a range of about 27 different emotional categories.

Alan S. Cowen and Dacher Keltner, researchers in Berkley, California, set out to study and define the creation and organization of emotions in psychology. Before Cowen and Keltner did their experiment, there were many different viewpoints on emotion. One of the most commonly held viewpoints was that the brain activates six basic emotions during an emotional experience, and focuses on valence and arousal. In this viewpoint, the six basic emotions are considered to be anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise that are described through disconnected feelings and are organized in a limited number of clusters in the semantic space (Cowen).

In the study done by Cowen and Keltner, they came to the conclusion that emotions are subjective experiences linked to an interconnected array of points in the semantic space of the brain, in which there are both “discrete clusters” and “continuous gradients.” Cowen and Keltner came to this conclusion by performing an experiment on 853 English-speaking participants, 403 which were female and 450 of which were male. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three different groups based on the self-reporting style they would be using to respond to the videos (Cowen).

Out of the 2,185 five second video clips chosen for the study, the first self-reporting group was to create a free response to 30 different videos they were given, based off their interpretation of their emotional response to each video. The second group of self-reporting people also watched 30 video clips each, but was instead given a set of 34 emotions that they used to rate each video. Lastly, the third group only watched 12 videos, but placed each of the 12 videos along 14 scales of affective dimensions (Cowen).

In order to make sure the videos did not contain a bias towards any type of emotion, but did contain a broad range of emotional experiences, the 2,185 videos were chosen by searching 34 prominent emotional categories into different and random search engines and websites. This produced many different types of videos ranging from births and babies to explosions and modern warfare (Cowen).

After analyzing the self-reports of each of the three groups, Cowen and Keltner found that “75% of the videos elicited significant concordance for at least one category of emotion,” supporting the idea that the responses recorded to the videos were not purely due to chance, making the information reliable (Cowen 3). As well, by using a system called split-half canonical correlations analysis that Cowen and Keltner created, they determined that “between 24 and 26 statistically significant semantic dimensions of reported emotional experience” were found, leading them to discover the 27 different emotional patterns that are linearly connected (Cowen 3).

So, what does this mean for all you emoji-fanatics out there? Well, if the emoji you use gets across the message of admiration, adoration, aesthetic appreciation, amusement, anger, anxiety, awe, awkwardness, boredom, calmness, confusion, craving, disgust, empathetic pain, entrancement, excitement, fear, horror, interest, joy, nostalgia, relief, romance, sadness, satisfaction, sexual desire, or surprise to the person you are sending it to, then it is clearly doing its job.



Cowen, Alan S., and Dacher Keltner. “Self-Report Captures 27 Distinct Categories of Emotion Bridged by Continuous Gradients.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Edited by Joseph E. LeDoux, vol. 114, no. 38, 5 Sept. 2017, doi:10.1073/pnas.1702247114.


Original News Article

Scholarly Research Article





Overall, I did not find it very difficult to summarize the whole research article. The organization of how the research article was written made it easy to track the most important steps of the research study, the conclusion, and any mishaps that may have happened. What made it even easier to write the news article was that for the second part of the media project, we had to analyze and summarize what the research article was about; therefore I already had all of the pertinent information about the research study identified. As well, we assessed how many of the five critical questions for reading research were answered by the research article during the second set of the project, so I also had that to use as a reference. I did not really need to reference the pop culture news article at all.

However, there were certain aspects of the research article that I could not include in my news article, just like the pop culture article. Most of the information that I was forced to omit involved the mathematical processes behind the results and some of the details about the videos. I chose to leave these pieces of information out as I believe that going into detail about them would not only confuse the reader, but would take away from the overall focus of the article. This process helped me to relate to journalists on a certain level, as you have to not only keep the scientific integrity of the study in mind while writing an article, but you have to keep your audience and their extent of knowledge in mind as well. After this process, I can better understand why so many journalists tend to falsely advertise scientific studies to the public.


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