Your Impression Can Improve 30 Percent by Nodding Updated in November 2017

When someone listens to you by nodding it can make you feel positive. You start to feel that he or she is a very nice person. Do we feel this way because the other person is nodding or because of the person’s facial expression? Or is it because he or she is keeping eye contact you while you talk? Takayuki Osugi, Associate Professor at Yamagata University announced that people judge someone to be of “good personality,” “likeable” and “approachable” due to their nodding actions.

Osugi and his team displayed 48 faces made by computer graphics on a monitor screen. Then they showed the faces to 49 people (men and women mixed) aged 18 and older, and asked them to evaluate whether the faces were likeable or approachable. They were asked to evaluate the likeability and approachability by using an evaluation score between 0 and 100 points. In addition to a faintly smiling portrait facing the front, the team added a moving image of a nodding face, and a face shaking the head horizontally. By doing so, the faces shown on the screen would not change its facial expression nor would any voices be added. The team could simply check the infuence of nodding and head-shaking actions only.

As a result, when the subjects looked at a nodding action, the likeability increased 18 percent compared an image of someone facing the front. Approachability increased 32 percent. In comparison to a shaking head, the likeability increased 27 percent and approachability increased 55 percent. Just by nodding, people will have a better impression of you by 20-30 percent in comparison to not doing anything.

In addition, when examining how the nodding motion can influence one’s “looks” and “personality,” the likeability of looks increased only 6 percent while the likeability of one’s personality increased 19 percent compared to facial images without any motions.

In other words, the nodding motion causes he or she to feel that "this person is probably nice." This leads to likeable and approachable impressions. Not everyone will think you are attrative simply because you nod often, but people are prone to think that you have a nice personality. Let’s not overuse it!

Effects of Head Nodding and Shaking Motions on Perception of Likeability and Approachability

Diagram: Example of a portrait used in the experiment. Based on the image facing the front (right), nodding (left) and head-shaking (middle) moving images were added. The three faces were shown on a screen and the team asked of their impressions. (Provided by Takayuki Osugi et al)