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:

Related Articles

Scientists reverse hair loss by making scalp "smell" sandalwood

It turns out the human scalp has an olfactory receptor that seems to play a crucial role in regulating hair follicle growth and death.

Photo: malehmann via Flickr
Surprising Science
  • Scientists treated scalp tissue with a chemical that mimics the odor of sandalwood.
  • This chemical bound to an olfactory receptor in the scalp and stimulated hair growth.
  • The treatment could soon be available to the public.
Keep reading Show less

7 habits of the best self-directed learners

The best self-directed learners use these seven habits to improve their knowledge and skills in any subject.

(Photo by Peter Cade/Getty Images)
Personal Growth
  • Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Ellen DeGeneres all dropped out of college, yet they became leaders in their fields. Their secret? Self-directed learning.
  • Self-directed learning can help people expand their knowledge, gain new skills, and improve upon their liberal education.
  • Following habits like Benjamin Franklin's five-hour rule, the 80/20 rule, and SMART goals can help self-directed learners succeed in their pursuits.
Keep reading Show less

Early Halloween in this Greek town: 1,000-foot spiderweb

It happens every few years. Not just in Greece, but also parts of the United States.

Photo credit: Giannis Giannakopoulos
Surprising Science
  • Aitoliko, in Western Greece is the town these images are from.
  • Tetragnatha is the genus — known as "stretch spiders" because of their elongated bodies.
  • They can run faster on water than on land. Don't panic, though: they will be gone in days.
Keep reading Show less