People Judge Intelligence, Professionalism From E-Mails

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More than half of adults in America judge people’s intelligence based on e-mail content and format, according to research released today by GMX, a free e-mail service for more than 11 million active users.

The survey of 1,002 US adults who use e-mail for both work and personal reasons on a regular basis found that communication through e-mail plays a significant role in how Americans perceive and judge others both personally and professionally. Of those surveyed, 58 percent of Americans admitted they judge intelligence based on the writing style, tone and language used in e-mail.

Along those same lines, 57 percent of users are concerned about having an influence on how others view their own intelligence. In fact, adults who worry the most about this perception intentionally adapt to a particular language, writing style or tone of voice in their e-mails to peers, family or co-workers.

The results in the “2009 GMX E-mail Psychology Study” suggest how essential e-mail is in the U.S. for learning about others and developing a sense of personality and intellect. In fact, after intelligence, the next characteristics most often judged through e-mail were age and authority.

About a third of users (33 percent) said they may try to guess a person’s age just based on the language, tone and style of e-mails, while 28 percent assume how much of an authority figure a person is amongst their peers. Moreover, 23 percent said they will judge how successful a person might be in a lifetime, along with 20 percent of users who interpret social status through electronic communication.

Eva Heil, managing director at GMX, said, “E-mail has truly changed how people interact and has evolved into a highly valued means of communication. Most people now make social judgments based on the e-mails they receive and care about their own e-mail identity, which means that an individual’s approach to their e-mail has never been so important.”

Words alone are enough for some Americans to interpret a person’s attractiveness and sense of fashion, as suggested by the study’s data. Judging only from what is written in e-mails, 11 percent of Americans decide how sexually attractive someone is and 8 percent make a judgment about fashion sense.

Heil added, “What people write is not necessarily taken at face value anymore. People are starting to form opinions based on the language, tone and style used in e-mail.”

When it comes to perceptions about their own image, people seemed most concerned about their intelligence (57 percent). Judgments about how calm, happy and authoritative they are also took top priority with 31 percent, 28 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Surprisingly, though, perceptions about age were only top concerns for 14 percent of U.S. adults, while 9 percent worried about sexual attractiveness and 6 percent with being seen as fashionable.

Based on results from the recent GMX survey, e-mail is becoming an acceptable medium for sharing sensitive and important information. More than half of U.S. adult users surveyed (60 percent) felt e-mail was appropriate for getting asked out on a date as well as for telling major life decisions to family and friends. Doing so with incorrect grammar and shorthand was acceptable to 59 percent.

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