Nodding your head makes you more likable, approachable, study finds

HOKKAIDO, Japan — Want to make a person feel more comfortable around the first time you meet? Be sure to nod your head during the conversation. A new study finds that nodding makes people more likable and easier to talk to.

Researchers at Hokkaido and Yamagada universities in Japan recruited 49 Japanese adults of both genders to evaluate the attractiveness, likability, and approachability of 15 three-dimensional computer-based models on a 100-point scale, based on the figures’ head movements.

A new study finds that nodding during a conversation improves a person’s likability and makes them more approachable to others.

Models that were depicted as nodding received 30 percent and 40 percent higher scores from participants in relation to likability and approachability respectively, when compared to models that shook their head or stayed motionless, the researchers found.

Meanwhile, head shaking — typically interpreted as a gesture of denial to a request or inquiry — did not influence the perceived likability or approachability of the models.

“Our study also demonstrated that nodding primarily increased likability attributable to personality traits, rather than to physical appearance,” adds researcher Jun-ichiro Kawahara in a university release.

These findings stayed relatively constant among both male and female participants, demonstrating how wide-reaching their applicability may be.

Still, while new insight into different topics — such as how avatars are perceived and hospitality and manners should be approached — is certainly welcomed, Kawahara warns that further research still must be conducted.

“Generalizing these results requires a degree of caution because computer-generated female faces were used to manipulate head motions in our experiments,” he explains. “Further study involving male figures, real faces and observers from different cultural backgrounds, is needed to apply these findings to real-world situations.”

The study’s findings were published in September in the journal Perception.