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Neuroscientific Study Reveals the Positive Impact of a Handshake

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Neuroscientific Study Reveals the Positive Impact of a Handshake

A new study regarding the effect of a handshake has been conducted by researchers from the Beckman Institute. Researchers Florin Dolcos and Sanda Dolcos confirm the old adage about the power of a handshake –  a person who offers to shake another’s hand when greeting will make a better first impression.

It has already been widely accepted that a handshake is recommended in order to make a good first impression. Scientists believe that the handshake was a method to suggest that the persons had no weapons on them. The current paper has been recently published online, whilst also being set to appear in the printed issue of Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, in December. Florin Dolcos, researcher at the Beckman Institute, and his associate, Sanda Dolcos, of the Psychology Department, report that “a handshake preceding social interaction enhanced the positive impact of approach and diminished the negative impact of avoidance behavior on the evaluation of social interaction”.



These are the first scientific results that support the already existent idea that a handshake plays a very important role in social or business interactions. According to Sanda Dolcos, these findings are most important for people trying to make a good first impression. She said that the impact of a negative impression is highly diminished through a handshake, whilst also having a positive effect on the further interactions.

A number of 18 people, both male and female, participated in the study. The main focus of the study was to observe approaching and avoidance behaviors in different social interactions. In order to achieve their results, the research team used fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), behavioral responses and skin conductance tests. The subjects participating in the study had to watch animated videos showing non-verbal interactions between a host and a guest.

According to the researchers, the results of the study showed that the handshake and approach behavior received a positive evaluation. In addition, researchers note that the nucleus accumbens showed a higher rate of activity during the handshake conditions, suggesting that handshakes create a positive effect on the social evaluation. The amygdala, the temporal sulcus and the nucleus accumbens were all analyzed during this study.

“The regions of the social cognition network are commonly engaged when people are assessing the intentions of others. They had been identified before and people who have difficulty in interactions, like people with autism, have reduced response in this region”, said Florin Dolcos. He also said that using these animated videos is a major step forward for these types of studies. The videos contained situations where a host encounters a guest for the first time and proceeds to have a business-like interaction. These new videos come as a change from previous studies, which only used stating images instead of dynamic videos.

According do Sanda Dolcos, their study managed to replicate the results of precedent studies, whilst also bringing new data on the regions of the brain that contribute to the evaluation of approach and avoidance interactions. The authors also said that it’s not only the handshake that receives a positive reaction, but also the specific way in which the hand is shaken. Thus, different way of shaking hands give different results.

The study abstract can be found here.