My brain doesn’t do well with pictures that replace words: on the cooktop it always takes me time to figure out which knob controls which element, in a lift my finger hesitates above the silly arrows for opening or closing doors. So I was interested to read about how it takes our brains longer to decode emoji than to read simple words:
New research suggests most people can easily understand an emoji when it replaces a word directly – like an icon for a car instead of the word ‘car’ – yet it takes us about 50 percent longer to comprehend the icon.
The slight delay probably exists because our minds interpret these images as pictures, not as words, the authors argue, which requires an extra step of processing.
First, our brains must recognize the image before our eyes, and then, we must match that image to a word. If we simply read a word, we get there sooner.
Source: We’re Pretty Good at Decoding an Emoji, Even When It’s Not a Perfect Match For a Word