This One Simple Move Can Make You 30% More Popular

These results may help us build robots that humans respond more positively to.

Two Japanese researchers recently found themselves wondering what they could do to be more popular, or anyone really. Previous research found that a bowing female figure was perceived as more attractive. They wondered if nodding might have a similar effect. So, they investigated how those who nod often are perceived, as compared with those who are more prone to shaking their head.


Turns out, nodding frequently makes you 30% more popular, and more attractive too. Just as long as it’s natural and you aren’t standing there like a Bobblehead. Find the results of this study in the psychology journal Perception. Other research found that people tend to nod more often when those in power or at a higher status are speaking. Also, women generally nod more than men.

Participants had to rate the likeability, attractiveness, and approachability of animated female figures, seen here. Credit: Kawahara J. and Osugi T., Perception.

Other research has found that we can be persuaded into things by our own body language. In a 2003 study for instance, investigators found that those who nodded while listening to an editorial, were more likely to agree with its point of view. The reason given was, when we think about issues to ourselves, nodding becomes a form of “self-validation.” It gives us confidence in our own thoughts.

The researchers in this study were Jun-ichiro Kawahara, an associate professor at Hokkaido University and Takayuki Osugi, an associate professor at Yamagata University. They recruited 49 Japanese men and women age 18 and above, and had them rate computer-generated, female figures in likeability, attractiveness, and approachability. Volunteers assessed each trait on a scale from 0-100. Figures performed one of three moves. One shook its head, another nodded, and a third didn’t do anything at all.

Here’s a video clip as an example:

The nodding figure was seen as 30% more likeable and 40% more approachable, over the motionless one. Men and women gave similar results. Funny enough, head shaking didn’t change likeability. But nodding enhanced it. Kawahara said in a press release, “Our study also demonstrated that nodding primarily increased likability attributable to personality traits, rather than to physical appearance.”

This is the first study to show that just observing another person’s subtle motions can produce a positive impression. These findings may help those in the hospitality industry offer better service to their patrons. It can also help doctors, teachers, social workers and others, better reach those they serve. In addition, these findings are thought to help us design A.I. and robots who have a better chance of making a positive impression on humans. The robot revolution is coming and people are nervous.

There’s the uncanny valley or that certain point in a robot’s evolution, where its human-like appearance rather than ingratiating, becomes creepy. Perhaps this and future research can help us overcome the valley. The next phase for these researchers is to repeat the experiment, using male computer-generated figures, and eventually real faces. They also want to see how those from other cultural backgrounds react.

To learn more about subtle body language cues, click here:

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less
Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less

Harvard: Men who can do 40 pushups have a 'significantly' lower risk of heart disease

Turns out pushups are more telling than treadmill tests when it comes to cardiovascular health.

Airman 1st Class Justin Baker completes another push-up during the First Sergeants' push-up a-thon June 28, 2011, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Participants were allowed 10 minutes to do as many push-ups as they could during the fundraiser. Airman Baker, a contract specialist assigned to the 354th Contracting Squadron, completed 278 push-ups. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Janine Thibault)
Surprising Science
  • Men who can perform 40 pushups in one minute are 96 percent less likely to have cardiovascular disease than those who do less than 10.
  • The Harvard study focused on over 1,100 firefighters with a median age of 39.
  • The exact results might not be applicable to men of other age groups or to women, researchers warn.
Keep reading Show less

U.S. reacts to New Zealand's gun ban

On Thursday, New Zealand moved to ban an array of semi-automatic guns and firearms components following a mass shooting that killed 50 people.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Gun control supporters are pointing to the ban as an example of swift, decisive action that the U.S. desperately needs.
  • Others note the inherent differences between the two nations, arguing that it is a good thing that it is relatively hard to pass such legislation in such a short timeframe.
  • The ban will surely shape future conversations about gun control in the U.S.
Keep reading Show less