LivingThe gesture that makes you more popular

The gesture that makes you more popular

Two researchers of Japanese origin, Jun-ichiro Kawahara, associate professor at Hokkaido University in Sapporo and Takayuki Osugi, associate professor at Yamagata University in Yamagata, set out to investigate the psychological impact of two head movements: nodding approvingly and shake the head in disapproval, in order to evaluate the effect of these two gestures on sympathy and accessibility at a subjective level.

This is not the first time that the effect of head movements has been formally studied, nor is it the first time that these two researchers have worked together.

An earlier study conducted in 2003 suggested that agreeing to what an interlocutor says influences the listener’s beliefs. Surprisingly, the study revealed that when we hear a weak argument, people who nod their heads tend to disagree with that opinion.

In this new study, published in the journal Perception , the researchers asked participants to rate the sympathy of a series of computer-generated figures.

Using similar computer-generated characters, the scientists previously collaborated to investigate the effect of gestures on subjective attractiveness. The research “demonstrated that the tilting motion of the computer-generated female 3-D figures enhanced perceived attractiveness.”

“Since head movements are used as communication signals,” the researchers hypothesized that nodding and shaking the head “would modulate the perceived impressions of the model faces.”

Nodding makes you 30% more pleasant

To test their hypothesis, the experts asked 49 Japanese adults aged 18 and over to view short clips of figures nodding, nodding their heads, or standing still. The participants then had to rate the attractiveness, accessibility, and friendliness of the figures, using a scale from 0 to 100.

Overall, the study revealed that nodding figures were rated 30% more agreeable and 40% more approachable , compared to stationary figures or figures who shook their heads.

“Our study also showed that nodding primarily increased likability attributable to personality traits, rather than physical appearance,” Kawahara specifies.

These results were the same for the male and female participants.

According to the authors, this is the first time that a study shows that simply watching someone subtly move their head can positively change the observer’s attitude toward that person. The results can help create more pleasant and hospitable web avatars or humanoid robots.

“Generalizing these results requires a certain degree of caution because computer-generated female faces were used to manipulate head movements in our experiments. More studies involving male figures, real faces, and observers from different cultural backgrounds are needed to apply these findings to real world situations “, concludes Jun-ichiro Kawahara.

Reference: Takayuki Osugi, Jun I. Kawahara. Effects of Head Nodding and Shaking Motions on Perceptions of Likeability and Approachability. Perception 2017 DOI:

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