Researchers from Indiana University (IU) have revealed that in this digital age, an email can be more effective in expressing romantic feelings than other platforms such as leaving a voice message or a WhatsApp post.
Alan R Dennis, from IU's Kelley School of Business, said, "The bottom line is that email is much better when you want to convey some information that you want someone to think about." Using psycho-physiological measures from 72 college-age people, Dennis and co-author Taylor M. Wells observed that people who sent romantic emails were more emotionally aroused and used stronger and more thoughtful language than those who left voicemails.
Dennis and Wells wrote, "When writing romantic emails, senders consciously or subconsciously added more positive content to their messages, perhaps to compensate for the medium's inability to convey vocal tone." While an email enables senders to modify the content as messages are composed to ensure they are crafted to the needs of the situation, a voicemail lacks this feature. A sender records a voicemail in a single take, and it can be sent or discarded and then re-recorded, but not edited.
The authors said, "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."
The study also suggested that the medium used can shape the content of the message. When composing romantic messages, senders included the most positive and most arousing emotional content in emails and the least positive and least arousing emotional content in voicemails. These findings, however, do not suggest that face-to-face meetings, personal phone calls and other direct forms of communications are not as useful.
The research will be published in Computers in Human Behavior.