Children’s selection of emojis to express food-elicited emotions in varied eating contexts.


Emojis were suggested for children to be used to measure food-elicited emotions. The present study was aimed to explore the appropriateness of emojis to describe pre-adolescents’ emotions elicited by foods recalled in relation to different evoked eating contexts and to explore related age- and gender differences. Fifty-five boys and forty-one girls aged 9–13 participated to the study. First, subjects were asked to recall, by means of an open-ended question, the foods they had in specific eating contexts: “Most liked food” and “Most disliked food”, “Breakfast”, “Dinner”, “Snack”, “Birthday” and “Novel food”. Then, they were asked to select the emojis appropriate to describe their feelings for the context-related foods by selecting from a list of 92 facial emojis (CATA method). Emojis selected by more than 20% of children in at least one eating context qualified as food-related. In total, 46 emojis resulted as appropriate to describe emotions in different eating contexts. Pre-adolescents used mainly positive emojis, except for the context “Most disliked food”, where mainly negative emojis were used. Most food-related emojis resulted from “Most liked food” and “Most disliked food”, but the context “Birthday” also added some context-specific emojis. The number of selected emojis varied across evoked eating contexts eliciting different foods. Age and gender significantly affected emoji selection across and within foods elicited by varied eating contexts, with girls and 9–11-year-old subjects selecting some emojis more frequently across all contexts, but also within contexts. The approach used in the present study has the potential to be used for the development of a food-related emotion measurement tool for pre-adolescents. Future research aimed at interpreting the meaning of facial emojis is needed and should consider age- and gender differences.