In 1872, Charles Darwin pub­lished The Expres­sion of the Emo­tions in Man and Ani­mals, a book that cat­a­loged emo­tional expres­sions in humans and their link to the animal world. In the book, Darwin described more than 50 uni­versal emo­tions. Now Face­book, with the help of a psy­chol­o­gist who studies emo­tions and a Pixar illus­trator, has turned some of the emo­tions Darwin described in the 19th cen­tury into a set of emoti­cons. The hope: to create emoti­cons that better cap­ture the vast range of human emotion.

This all began we were looking at the kind of issues people were reporting to Face­book,” Face­book engi­neer Arturo Bejar tells Pop­ular Sci­ence. “The reports had to do with things Face­book didn’t need to act on, but things people should address–what should happen when you say some­thing that’s upset­ting to me or put up a photo I didn’t like?”

Around that time, he met Dacher Keltner, a psy­chology pro­fessor at UC Berkeley who studies emo­tions and social inter­ac­tion, and invited him to become a sci­en­tific partner with Face­book in early 2012, “get­ting people to be kinder and more polite to make for more com­pas­sionate com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” as Keltner describes.

They started looking at how com­pas­sion research could help Face­book address the kind of inter­per­sonal con­flicts the com­pany saw emerge in issue reporting. When people inserted a little more emo­tion into their mes­sages asking friends to take down photos, Face­book found, the friend was more likely to respond or comply rather than just ignore the message.

Read the article at Popsci →