Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Nodding or shaking your head may even influence your own thoughts, study finds

08.07.2003


When you nod your head to signal approval or shake your head to show disapproval, it’s not just sending a message to others – you may also be influencing yourself.

A new study showed that these simple movements influenced people’s agreement with an editorial they heard while nodding or shaking their head. Researchers found that other body movements – such as writing with a non-dominant hand – can also influence attitudes, even about important issues such as self-esteem.

And these body movements exert their influence without people being aware of what is happening.



“We think of nodding or shaking our head as something that communicates to other people, but it turns out that it is also communicating to ourselves,” said Richard Petty, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

In a sense, Petty said, nodding or shaking your head, as well as other body movements, serve as a kind of “self-validation” that confirms to us how we feel about our own 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.”

Petty conducted the study with Pablo Brinol, a former doctoral student at Ohio State now at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in Spain. The research appears in the current issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

In one study, the researchers told 82 college students that they were testing the sound quality of stereo headphones – particularly how the headphones would perform when they are being jostled, as during dancing or jogging.

Half the participants were told to move their heads up and down (nodding) about once per second while wearing the headphones. The other half was told to move their heads from side to side (shaking) while listening on the headphones.

All of the participants listened to a tape of a purported campus radio program that included music and a station editorial advocating that students be required to carry personal identification cards.

After listening to the tape, the participants rated the headphones and gave their opinions about the music and the editorial that they heard.
The study found that head movements did affect whether they agreed with the editorial. But the effect is more complicated than might be expected.

The study found that nodding your head up and down is, in effect, telling yourself that you have confidence in your own thoughts – whether those thoughts are positive or negative. Shaking your head does the opposite: its gives people less confidence in their own thoughts.

So participants in this study who heard an editorial that made good arguments agreed more with the message when they were nodding in a “yes” manner than shaking in a “no” manner. This is because the nodding movements increased confidence in the favorable thoughts people had to the good arguments compared to shaking.

However, students who heard an editorial that made poor arguments showed the reverse pattern. These students agreed less with the message when they were nodding than when shaking. This is because the nodding movements increased confidence in the negative thoughts they had to the poor arguments compared to shaking.

“Nodding your head doesn’t mean you’ll agree with whatever you hear. One of the most surprising things we found is that if you’re thinking negative thoughts while you’re nodding, this actually strengthens your disapproval,” Petty said. “What the head nodding is doing is making you more confident in your negative thoughts. In contrast, when the thoughts were mostly positive, then nodding increased confidence in these thoughts and thereby increased persuasion.”

Another study found the same results occurred even when participants were evaluating something they knew very well: themselves. And it occurred with a completely different kind of body motion: handwriting.

In this case, the participants were asked to write down three good or bad qualities they thought they had with respect to their planned careers. But some were told to write with their right hand, while others were told to write with their left hand (all were determined to be right-handed). They were then asked to rate how confident they were in the thoughts they had listed.

Results showed that the participants had more confidence in their thoughts when they wrote them with their right (dominant) hand than when they wrote with the left (non-dominant) hand.

“As with the head nodding, using the dominant hand affected how confident participants were in their own thoughts,” Petty said.
In all the studies, the participants were questioned afterwards to determine if they suspected their head movements or writing with a non-dominant hand influenced their attitudes. None thought so.

Petty said a whole range of body movements, including things such as smiling, as well as other factors such as mood, influence our attitudes to an extent we are unaware.

“We like to think of ourselves as totally rational,” Petty said. “We like to think that if we’re confident in something, it is because we’ve investigated the issues thoroughly. We certainly don’t want to believe that our confidence can come because we’re smiling, or nodding, or because we’re in a good mood. But that seems to be the case.”

Petty said it is significant that these body movements can even affect confidence in thoughts about issues in our lives that are important to us and that we have thought about deeply – like our own self-evaluations.

“The fact that this impacts us on our most important decisions and when we are being very thoughtful, that makes this dangerous in some sense,” he said. “We have to be very vigilant when we’re evaluating our own thoughts. We need to think about why we are confident or not confident in certain attitudes.”


Contact: Richard Petty, (614) 292-1640; Petty.1@osu.edu
Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457; Grabmeier.1@osu.edu

Jeff Grabmeier | Ohio State University
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu/researchnews/archive/headmvmt.htm

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>