Animated GIFs are increasingly popular in text-based communication. Like other forms of nonverbal communication, animated GIFs are susceptible to open interpretation. We explore whether people have different interpretations of animated GIFs, how those interpretations differ, and what factors impact the degree of difference. Through an online survey, we solicited people’s interpretations of a sample of GIFs, and analyzed the variance in sentiment based on the emotions participants used to describe GIFs. We find diverse interpretations of GIFs, and that duration of GIFs has a significant impact on interpretation. Positive GIFs also have more variance in interpretation than negative GIFs. Overall, we show that there is potential for miscommunication in animated GIFs, and animated GIFs may be a more nuanced form of nonverbal communication than emoticons and emoji.


  1. Understanding Diverse Interpretations of Animated GIFs Jiang, Jialun “Aaron” and Brubaker, Jed R. and Fiesler, Casey
    CHI’17 Extended Abstracts