This is a fascinating new paper, published in Social Neuroscience, that explains how our brains now interpret the human smiley emoticon as a real smile. You know, the 🙂 or perhaps simply the 🙂 ?
Researchers at Australia’s Flinders University showed twenty participants smiley faces, along with real faces and strings of symbols that shouldn’t look like faces, all while recording the signals in the region of the brain that’s primarily activated when we see faces. This signal, called the N170 event-related potential, is the highest when people see actual faces, but was also high when people saw the standard emoticon :). “This indicates that when upright, emoticons are processed in occipitotemporal sites similarly to faces due to their familiar configuration,” the researchers write.
Full study (PDF) here.
(via ABC Australia)