Previous studies (as well as conventional wisdom) had suggested the opposite: that a voicemail message is a more intimate way to connect with others. But according to researchers Alan R Dennis and Taylor M Wells, this may not be true. In a press release Dennis stated that: “The bottom line is email is much better when you want to convey some information that you want someone to think about.”
Like photos of your pen*s. Ha. Kidding. Don’t do that either.
But Dennis and Wells surmised in their paper, published in Computers in Human Behaviour that when writing emails, senders consciously or subconsciously added more positive content to their messages — “perhaps to compensate for the inability to convey vocal tone,” they said. “Email enables senders to modify the content as messages are composed to ensure they are crafted to the needs of the situation. Voicemail lacks this feature … Thus senders engage with email messages longer and may think about the task more deeply than when leaving voicemails. This extra processing may increase arousal.”
Which all makes sense when you think about it. Still, Dennis noted that the findings run counter to the popular Media Naturalness theory, which suggests that the further away we get from face-to-face communications, the less natural and less effective it becomes.
Dennis and Wells’s findings weren’t just about getting your sweet, sweet pa$$ion on either — the use of email induced more arousing psychophysiological responses regardless of whether the message was utilitarian or romantic. Interestingly, gender was not found to be a factor (and was omitted in the final analysis).
And before you think it’s all about that sweet, sweet emoji and smiley faces, the researchers found only a few instances of this. Rather, subjects took more time during emailing to choose their words, ensuring the language conveyed the full meaning.
What else? Dennis and Wells’s study also illustrated that the medium can sometimes shape the content. Senders of utilitarian messages sent less positive emails than voicemails for the same communication task. But when composing romantic messages, senders included the most positive and most arousing emotional content in emails and the not so arousing stuff in voicemails.