New Research

This Simple Gesture Could Be an Easy Way to Make Yourself More Likeable

Photography by iStock/bowie15

What if I told you making yourself more likeable could be as easy as nodding your head “yes!”? Well I have some good news: That’s the conclusion drawn by a new study published this fall in Sage Journals.

For the study, researchers from Yamagata University and Hokkaido University in Japan used videos of computer-generated female faces nodding, shaking their heads, and remaining motionless. They showed the videos of the faces to Japanese participants and asked them to rate the faces on how likeable and approachable they found them. When the researchers tallied the results, they found that the ratings were around 18 percent higher for the nodding facings, as opposed to the faces that shook their heads or stayed still (a.k.a. the control group).

Honestly, we shouldn’t find this all that shocking — don’t you prefer it when someone nods along with what you’re saying? But one thing was a little surprising in this study: There was no real difference in the results between the shaking heads and the control (stationary) group. I mean, that’s kind of weird, right? Wouldn’t you think that literally shaking your head at someone would make them like you less? According to the study, that’s not the case.

Of course, the study used small test groups — there were only 16 and 17 people in the two experiment groups reviewing the faces — so there’s a possibility that the results wouldn’t be the same for everyone (though the study does note that the researchers believed the test groups to be large enough). Additionally, the study used computer-generated faces, not real human faces, to demonstrate the shaking and nodding.

But what are we to take away from this study? We asked the researchers how they hope to see it applied in real life.

“This subtle body action can be applied to many places,” says Jun Kawahara, a researcher form Hokkaido University’s department of psychology and a co-author on the study. “For example, we may be able to increase first impression from SNS profile pictures. Inserting nodding figures as background scenes of commercial messages may induce positive reactions toward the target product.”

While Kawahara brings up a good point — nodding could be used in the future to manipulate our responses to commercials — we certainly know how we’ll be applying this study: nodding “yes!” to everything.

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