Western People View Handshake More Positively Than East Asians

Researchers say they plan to expand the study to explore handshaking versus the traditional East Asian greeting of bowing

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Western Handshake
French President Emmanuel Macron, left, shakes hands with President Donald Trump after the Bastille Day military parade in Paris, July 14, 2017. VOA
  • People from the West have a more positive view of handshaking than East Asians
  • Western women rated all interactions with handshakes more positively than those occurring without one
  • Findings are clear evidence of how subtle things that might seem trivial can make a big difference in daily social interactions

July 19, 2017: If you worry about first impressions when you land in the U.S., take note: people from the West have a more positive view of handshaking than East Asians, a new study shows.

Researchers from the University of Illinois showed an equally divided group of 88 Western and East Asian men and women short videos of guest–host interactions in business settings. The characters in the videos either shook hands or not at the beginning of the meeting.

Western participants viewed the interactions involving handshakes more favorably than East Asians, researchers found.

When viewed by gender, Western women rated all interactions with handshakes more positively than those occurring without one. Western men rated female hosts equally positive whether or not a handshake occurred.

“These findings shed light on the role of ethnic and gender differences in the appraisal of nonverbal behaviors, and extend our understanding of factors that may lead to successful social interaction in the context of growing diversity in our society,” the authors said in an abstract published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior.

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University of Illinois psychology professor and researcher Florin Dolcos said results showing that Western males don’t seem to be affected by the absence of a handshake when interacting with females “is clear evidence of how subtle things that might seem trivial can make a big difference in daily social interactions.”

Dolcos conducted the study along with graduate student Yuta Katsumi and professor Sanda Dolcos.

Researchers say they plan to expand the study to explore handshaking versus the traditional East Asian greeting of bowing. (VOA)