This One Simple Move Can Make You 30% More Popular

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

Women having fun while out.
Credit: Getty Images.

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:

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.


Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash
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