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When Texting, One Little Thing Makes a Big Difference

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When texting in a hurry, punctuation is the first thing to go. Although improvements in cell phone keyboards and a widespread increase in general tech-savviness have rendered such overly abbreviated messages as “c u l8r” old-fashioned and (mostly) obsolete, texting is still a medium that calls for efficiency. However, researchers from Binghamton University have found that text recipients interpret messages differently based on the presence or absence of one simple thing: a period.

In "Texting insincerely: The role of the period in text messaging," a study of 126 college students, researchers from Binghamton’s Center for Cognitive and Psycholinguistic Sciences found that text messages punctuated with a period at the end were considered “less sincere” than identical text messages received without the period. Participants were presented with a series of brief conversational exchanges, in which a brief, informal message containing a question (“Dave gave me his extra tickets. Wanna go?”) was replied to with an affirmative one-word response like “Okay,” “Sure,” “Yeah,” or “Yup.” In half the cases, the exact reply was “Sure.” (note the period), and in the other half, the response was “Sure” – sans period. Surprisingly, this subtle manipulation was enough to cause respondents to rate the punctuation-free message as more sincere, and the correctly punctuated message as less sincere.

In addition to determining whether the period itself carried interpretive weight, the researchers also manipulated the medium by which the message was sent. Some participants were shown images of texts, represented by messages pictured on a cell phone screen, while others were shown identically worded messages hand-written on photocopied scraps of lined, loose-leaf paper (looking a lot like notes that students might pass to one another in class). Respondents in the hand-written message scenario rated both punctuated and unpunctuated sentences as equally sincere as one another, and both were judged equally as sincere as text messages without a final period. For some reason, then, a period seems to have a greater impact in text messages (a form of what psychologists call computer-mediated communication, or CMC) than it does in written communication.

As to why a digital period carries more meaning than one written in ballpoint pen, the researchers were reluctant to speculate. In the study, they conclude “not so much that the period is used to convey a lack of sincerity in text messages, but that punctuation is one of the cues used by senders, and understood by receivers, to convey pragmatic and social information.” In the absence of vocal inflection, facial expression, body language, pauses, and eye contact, a humble period might be worth more, relatively speaking. There are plenty of believers in the importance of proper text punctuation etiquette already, with various parties anecdotally convinced that ending a message with a period indicates passive-aggression, omitting an exclamation point (or three) constitutes rudeness, or that only old people use commas—but ultimately, it’s between the sender and the receiver to negotiate mutual understanding of what a text means. And if there’s any lingering doubt as to whether a response is sincere or not, maybe someday there’ll be an emoji for that.

[h/t Pacific Standard]

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Samsung Is Making a Phone You Can Fold in Half
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The iPhone vs. Galaxy war just intensified. Samsung is pulling out all the stops and developing a foldable phone dubbed Galaxy X, which it plans to release next year, according to The Wall Street Journal.

It would seem the rumors surrounding a mythical phone that can fold over like a wallet are true. The phone, which has been given the in-house code name “Winner,” will have a 7-inch screen and be a little smaller than a tablet but thicker than most other smartphones.

Details are scant and subject to change at this point, but the phone is expected to have a smaller screen on the front that will remain visible when the device is folded. Business Insider published Samsung patents back in May showing a phone that can be folded into thirds, but the business news site noted that patents often change, and some are scrapped altogether.

The Galaxy Note 9 is also likely to be unveiled soon, as is a $300 Samsung speaker that's set to rival the Apple HomePod.

The Galaxy X will certainly be a nifty new invention, but it won’t come cheap. The Wall Street Journal reports the phone will set you back about $1500, which is around $540 more than Samsung’s current most expensive offering, the Galaxy Note 8.

[h/t Business Insider]

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Why a Readily Available Used Paperback Is Selling for Thousands of Dollars on Amazon
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At first glance, getting ahold of a copy of One Snowy Knight, a historical romance novel by Deborah MacGillivray, isn't hard at all. You can get the book, which originally came out in 2009, for a few bucks on Amazon. And yet according to one seller, a used copy of the book is worth more than $2600. Why? As The New York Times reports, this price disparity has more to do with the marketing techniques of Amazon's third-party sellers than it does the market value of the book.

As of June 5, a copy of One Snowy Knight was listed by a third-party seller on Amazon for $2630.52. By the time the Times wrote about it on July 15, the price had jumped to $2800. That listing has since disappeared, but a seller called Supersonic Truck still has used copy available for $1558.33 (plus shipping!). And it's not even a rare book—it was reprinted in July.

The Times found similar listings for secondhand books that cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars more than their market price. Those retailers might not even have the book on hand—but if someone is crazy enough to pay $1500 for a mass-market paperback that sells for only a few dollars elsewhere, that retailer can make a killing by simply snapping it up from somewhere else and passing it on to the chump who placed an order with them.

Not all the prices for used books on Amazon are so exorbitant, but many still defy conventional economic wisdom, offering used copies of books that are cheaper to buy new. You can get a new copy of the latest edition of One Snowy Knight for $16.99 from Amazon with Prime shipping, but there are third-party sellers asking $24 to $28 for used copies. If you're not careful, how much you pay can just depend on which listing you click first, thinking that there's not much difference in the price of used books. In the case of One Snowy Knight, there are different listings for different editions of the book, so you might not realize that there's a cheaper version available elsewhere on the site.

An Amazon product listing offers a mass-market paperback book for $1558.33.
Screenshot, Amazon

Even looking at reviews might not help you find the best listing for your money. People tend to buy products with the most reviews, rather than the best reviews, according to recent research, but the site is notorious for retailers gaming the system with fraudulent reviews to attract more buyers and make their way up the Amazon rankings. (There are now several services that will help you suss out whether the reviews on a product you're looking at are legitimate.)

For more on how Amazon's marketplace works—and why its listings can sometimes be misleading—we recommend listening to this episode of the podcast Reply All, which has a fascinating dive into the site's third-party seller system.

[h/t The New York Times]

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