What is Emotion?

What is Emotion?

Emotion is an experience felt strongly by any individual due to the exposure to the environmental elements. These experiences are private to that particular individual and it can be felt for a shorter duration or can become permanent trait of the individual, in which case it is called as personality. Emotion are very fundamental that it is experienced by most of the animal species, probably those that have primary cortex.

The fundamental reason for the development of Emotions is to establish a richer communication with each other and form a tighter bond. Hence the 6 fundamental emotions were established: Anger, Fear, Happy, Sad, Surprise, Calm. As evolution progressed, it became important for an individual to convey emotions otherwise, his/her internal experience to each other, so that the individual will receive a sense of relief, as well avoid any miscommunication. The most beautiful result of the act of conveying internal experience or Emotion is the formation of “Society”. Emotion played a key role in development of the society and social relations. The concept of love, family, enmity and compassion would not have happened, if an individual chose not to express his/her internal experience. Emotions clearly set humans as a species apart from rest of the animal kingdom. And it is something that is worth preserving in every form of communications between individuals.

Primary Mode of Communication

Communication among humans has evolved over several millennia and humans have invented different forms of communication. It was started with making noises such as, “hootes” and “scuffs”, expressions using arms and entire body, evolving into early forms of language and expressions in the form of arts, music etc. The fundamental necessity of communication was to convey the feelings or Emotions. Emotions are embedded in all forms of communication from the semantics of language, tonality of voice, bodily and facial expressions and even various senses evolved to convey the same such as laughter, tears and shock.

In this digital age, the form of communication that is pervasive in all domain is the “Text” followed by verbal. The number of SMSes or chat being shared in 2017 is around 100Billion. This accounts to average of 1500 chat messages sent by every user per month. Email and chat traffic account for 25% of internet traffic.

Even still for such a dominant form of communication, it is incomplete, the textual communication is unnatural in the regard that it does not genuinely convey the experiences felt by the communicator. There has been several attempt to improve this state by adding “gifs”, “emojis” or even explicitly expressing the emotions, but unlike natural communication, where the exchange of emotions are part of the communication, the “emojis” and “gifs” are added superficially. The receiver of the message reads the message, understand the semantics and separately decodes the “emojis” or “gif” to associate the emotions of the sender. This form of communication is not only incomplete, but also not precise. Lets see an example on this simple communication,

  • User 1: just checking if you are ready to leave for movie? Excited.
  • User 2: Sorry, I am not in mood now,
  • User 1: What?? I was waiting for this chance.
  • User2: I am sorry, but got severe headache
  • User 1: Oh, we have to do next time then. Take rest.
  • User2: Thanks for understanding.

The above communication between friends is obviously simple, but there is a gap in communication from point of User1. He was initially disappointed that he was not able to go to the movie, but once User1 expressed that was sad that he could not make it due to his health issue, User1 understood and his disappointment changed to concern and wanted to convey that the is happy and wants User2 to get well soon. In an actual in-person communication, User1 might have use tonality of voice or physical touch to convey the message, but in text with the available features he might add emotions or gifs. Similarly the User2 waiting for this time to go out, but he is sad that he cannot do that due to his condition. This feeling of “letting down” can now be communicated with a sad emoji. Lets see how the above conversation can be modified given the current mechanisms to convey emotion.

  • User 1: just checking if you are ready to leave for movie? Excited 🙂
  • User 2: Sorry, I am not in mood now, 🙁
  • User 1: What?? I was waiting for this chance. 🙁
  • User2: I am soooo sorry, but got severe headache 🙁
  • User 1: Oh, we have to do next time then. Take rest. 🙂
  • User2: Thanks for understanding 🙂

As can be seen in the above conversation, addition of emojis enhances the conversation and improves conveying emotions, but as pointed earlier, this is not natural. The reader reads the message and decodes the emojis and associates with the emotion to the sentence, thereby understanding the communicator’s intention.

What-if solution

If emojis and gifs does not accurately convey the emotions in communication, then what does? This is the question that we have been trying to answer at MithrAI. Several researches shows that emotions influence colors and the same concept can be reversed to use colors to express emotions. Along with the use of color another richer method to express emotions, especially in textual domain is by using font design. Fonts are designer’s playground that can be designed to convey the right emotion. Some of the font designs are shown below,

As shown in the above example, with the combination of font color and design, the text can be made to express emotions and by design, these expressions are part of the communication and there is no need to separately define the emotions using emojis and gifs. With this modification, lets see how the above conversation has changed,


In this article, we have seen the evolution of human communication from simple form such as “hoots” and “hoofs”, to signs till complex digital text messages. We also highlighted on the role of emotions in communication and how several mechanisms has been developed to communicate the emotions during communication. After indicating the shortcoming of current text based communication, where emotions are not conveyed naturally or not conveyed at all, we saw few methods to indicate the emotions in textual communication using font style and color. Further study needs to be done to examine if intensity of the emotions can be conveyed using style. A expansion using font animation can be considered as a means to convey emotions.

One Response

  1. STE says:

    Very good post. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *