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Cooperativeness
Perception
Psychology

A slightly head-down posture might help you look more friendly, research says.

Study finds the optimal head posture for maximised apparent cooperativeness is close to level with a slight downward rotation

This paper was made available in partnership with the Swiss School of Business Research.
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We all make personality judgments based on a stranger’s facial cues. For example, if she or he is trustworthy, despite the limited evidence of the validity of our judgments.

Researchers Dongyu Zhang and Hongfei Lin at the Dalian University of Technology, along with David I. Perret at the University of St Andrew’s were interested in understanding how head posture (level, up, or down) affects cross-cultural perception of cooperativeness. In other words, does the perception of cooperativeness vary based on variations in posture?

To do so, they photographed 48 students from the University of St Andrews with their heads in three different poses: neutral, up, and down. Then a total of 146 Chinese and American participants were recruited for 3 different experiments, where they were then all asked to rate for perceived cooperativeness.

In rating and ranking tasks the authors found that a neutral posture was perceived as most cooperative compared with head-up and head-down postures. Both rotating the head up and rotating it down produced similar decreases in the perception of cooperativeness. As a result, individuals having negative-related traits with upward and downward head postures might be perceived as less cooperative compared to individuals with a neutral head
position.

These 3 experiments carried out also suggest that Chinese participants may be more sensitive than US participants to perceptions of cooperativeness. As the authors suggest: “a possible explanation may be that Asians have a greater tendency to live in collective societies and are perhaps more likely to emphasize group dynamics rather than individual prowess”

What is also interesting is the fact that turning the head down just slightly makes the face appear more cooperative to both Chinese and American observers. One reason may be that the sight of a head down is associated with the nodding, indicating agreement, attention, interest, support, and friendliness.

See the paper here or download the PDF →

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