Usually, we use nodding to signal understanding or agreement, or, if you’re like me, you might politely be pretending to hear what someone's just said.
Non-verbal acts have always been important in communication, probably more than most people think. Now, a new study has shown that nodding can make you both more approachable and more likable.
Hopefully this discovery won’t have you wagging your head up and down incessantly, but if you do want to improve people's perceptions of you, it might be worth incorporating nodding into your everyday mannerisms.
The new research was conducted by Jun-ichiro Kawahara from Hokkaido University and Takayuki Osugi from Yamagata University in Japan. They asked 49 Japanese men and women above the age of 18 to rate different computer-generated figures that were either nodding, shaking their heads, or remaining motionless.
The individuals who participated were asked to rate the figures for attractiveness, likeability, and approachability on a scale of 0 to 100.
The researchers found that the nodding figures were 30 percent more likable and 40 percent more approachable than the figures that were shaking their heads or simply doing nothing.
Kawahara noted that the study suggests that nodding makes someone more likable in terms of their personality, rather than their appearance.
“Generalizing these results requires a degree of caution because computer-generated female faces were used to manipulate head motions in our experiments," Kawahara said in a statement. "Further study involving male figures, real faces, and observers from different cultural backgrounds is needed to apply these findings to real-world situations."
But nodding does more than make you seem approachable, it can also influence your own opinions. In 2003, a study found that nodding, in comparison to head-shaking, made people more likely to agree with an editorial they were listening to. Study author Richard Petty said in a statement that nodding is a form of "self-validation" that consolidates our feelings towards our thoughts.
"If we are nodding our heads up and down, we gain confidence in what we are thinking. But when we shake our heads from side to side, we lose confidence in our own thoughts," he added.