By Steven G. MehtaSteve Mehta

Most people are aware that non-verbal communications play an important role in interactions.  In fact, according to some studies non-verbals are up to 93% of communications.  But what about any one specific gesture?  How important is that one gesture?  According to a recent study, head movements are more important in non-verbal communications than gender.  According to research, generally men use less head movements than women.  But in a recent study When women and men converse together, the men use a little more head motion than normal and the women use a little less than normal.  Apparently, each of the sexes is adapting to communicating with the other sex.

Researchers wanted to find out what would happen if you could change the communicator while keeping all of the motion dynamics of head movement and facial expression?

Researchers led by Steven Boker, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia did just that by computer technology and found that head motion was more important than gender in determining how people coordinate with each other while engaging in conversation.

The researchers used avatars – computer generated faces — in video-conferences with participants who believed they were conversing onscreen with an actual person rather than a synthetic version of a person.

According to Boker, people adapt to head movements and facial expressions, regardless of the apparent sex of the person they are talking to,” Boker said.

For negotiators, the study is a first step in learning more about how non-verbal communications affect our lives and how we negotiate non-verbally.  It is helpful to the concept that gender differences may be less important than actual non-verbals presented by a communicator.

In addition, this study also has implications towards the concept of mirroring – people are more prone to accept what you say if you mirror their behaviors.  Knowing that your gestures are more important than your sex can help you to connect with the opposite sex by mirroring movements made by the other person. According to researchers, this “mirroring process” helps people to feel a connection with each other.  That connection is critical for negotiators to build trust and rapport.

“When I coordinate my facial expressions or head movements with yours, I activate a system that helps me empathize with your feelings,” Boker said.

Research Source

University of Virginia (2009, May 26). Psychologists Find That Head Movement Is More Important Than Gender In Nonverbal Communication. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 31, 2009, from  /releases/2009/05/090525105459.htm