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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Miss Perception - What does it mean?

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

Miss Perception miscommunication character

Meet Miss Perception, also known as “Did I hear or read that correctly?”

Miss Perception is a contestant in my “Mis-Communication” Competition. Curious about who the others are? You can meet all of the contestants.

You’ve encountered Miss Perception if you’ve ever received a text or an email and you weren’t quite sure how to take it. Or, if you’ve ever gotten “in trouble” for sending a text or an email that wasn’t taken in the way you intended.

Why does Miss Perception show up in texts and emails?

Texts and emails don’t have the advantage of your tone of voice or facial expressions. Without these nonverbal clues, the same word can come across with vastly different meanings.

Consider the word “great” in the image above. It could be an exclamation of extreme pleasure or it could be a sarcastic expression of disappointment. Without context, how can you know which one it is?

According to a study by Kruger and colleagues at New York University (1), electronic written messages are correctly perceived only 56% of the time. That should cause us to pause. Almost half the time our written messages are likely to be incorrectly perceived. Have you experienced "Miss Perception"?

Is Miss Perception a major miscommunication challenge?

My audiences agree that misperception is one of their biggest miscommunication challenges. When conference attendees listed the miscommunication characters they struggle with most, Miss Understanding came in 1st, Miss Perception 2nd, and Miss Interpretation 3rd.

These three characters are closely related, synonyms actually, as they all deal with a message not being given the same meaning by the sender and the receiver. Read more about Miss Understanding and Miss Interpretation.

How can we prevent misperception when we communicate?

Who is at fault when we experience these types of miscommunication? The sender? The receiver? Likely some of both. When we are the message senders, what can we do to prevent misperception?

Emojis can help prevent misperception.

To compensate for a lack of nonverbal cues, we might use emojis or emoticons to help convey meaning in a written message. Emojis are small digital images and include not only a variety of facial expressions but numerous objects as well.

The word comes from the Japanese words for picture and character. An emoticon, short for emotion icon, is a depiction of a facial expression using keyboard symbols such as punctuation marks. For example, :) is the emoticon for a smiley face.

emoji called pleading face

Although used with the intention of conveying or enhancing meaning, the meaning that an emoji or emoticon is portraying is not always obvious. For example, if you saw this emoji, would you know the meaning it is trying to convey? It is called “Pleading Face.” According to, this emoji is: “A yellow face with furrowed eyebrows, a small frown, and large, “puppy dog” eyes, as if begging or pleading. May also represent adoration or feeling touched by a loving gesture.” (2)

Would you agree those two meanings are not the same: one is “please” and the other is “thank you.” That could lead to a misperception.

5 C's to prevent misperception:

How can we prevent misperception? Emojis may provide one possible solution, but in professional correspondence, other approaches are recommended.

You can prevent Miss Perception from ruining the effectiveness of your messages by checking them against these 5 C’s:

  1. Clarity – Does the message clearly state the meaning using words the audience understands?

  2. Completeness – Does the message include enough information to fully and accurately convey the meaning?

  3. Context – Does the message provide ample context that is relevant to the audience and enhances meaning?

  4. Correct tone – Does the overall tone of the message help convey the intended meaning?

  5. Connection – Is the message clearly intended for the audience?

If you can answer “yes” to all five criteria, your message is unlikely to be misperceived. But, to be sure, ask the audience for feedback. Fine-tune your message until it clearly conveys your meaning in the way you intend.

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” ~ Wayne W. Dyer

  1. Kruger, J., Epley, N., Parker, J., & Ng, Z.-W. (2005). Egocentrism over e-mail: Can we communicate as well as we think? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(6), 925-936.

  2. To look up emoji meanings:

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