In a survey that isn’t exactly quantitative, Indiana University of Bloomington did a survey of 72 people, aged 18 to 34 years old. The purpose of the study was to see the difference in emotional impact between an email and a voicemail message. The results are counter-intuitive, in that it turns out that the written email creates a stronger emotional reaction than a recorded voice message. The PR release writes:

“Using psychophysiological measures from 72 college-age people, [authors of the study*] Dennis and Wells found that people who sent romantic emails were more emotionally aroused and used stronger and more thoughtful language than those who left voicemails.”

romantic-emailsEditing for context

What makes the study concept more surprising is that the subject of the message was explicitly made to be romantic. It seems that the ability to edit your message is the key differentiator. The study reports that “[e]mail enables senders to modify the content as messages are composed to ensure they are crafted to the needs of the situation.”

Based on this study, it seems that the written word continues to carry power and gravitas Click To Tweet This should warm the hearts of copywriters and those who majored in languages/literature.

Emotion in Digital

The bottom line of this study reinforces that the medium is the message. For the romantics, time to get out their pen and write a few love notes. For brands, they would do well to make sure that their copywriters are well vetted Click To Tweet And, for those thinking that speaking is more “real” than a typed message, may have to revisit their beliefs!


BTW If you are interested, you can buy the academic paper, To email or not to email, The impact of media on psychophysiological responses and emotional content in utilitarian and romantic communication, here for $20.

*Authors: Alan R. Dennis, the John T. Chambers Chair of Internet Systems in Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Taylor M. Wells, an assistant professor of management information systems at California State University-Sacramento.

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