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The power of handshake

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Staff writer |
handshakeA firm, friendly handshake has long been recommended in the business world as a way to make a good first impression. We all know that intuitively but now we also have the scientific support.

The study was led by Beckman Institute researcher Florin Dolcos and Department of Psychology postdoctoral research associate Sanda Dolcos. They found that "a handshake preceding social interaction enhanced the positive impact." Their results, for the first time, give a scientific underpinning to long-held beliefs about the important role a handshake plays in social or business interactions.

Sanda Dolcos said their findings have obvious implications for those who want to make a good impression. "We found that it not only increases the positive effect toward a favorable interaction, but it also diminishes the impact of a negative impression. Many of our social interactions may go wrong for a reason or another, and a simple handshake preceding them can give us a boost and attenuate the negative impact of possible misunderstandings."

The study focused experimentally on approach and avoidance behaviors in social interactions. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), skin conductance, and behavioral responses were collected from male and female volunteers who watched and rated animated videos of non-verbal guest-host interactions in a business setting. The videos included animated human figures in a setting that indicated a business-type interaction. The figures included a host and a guest encountering each other for the first time.

Florin Dolcos says that it's not just any handshake that leads to positive feelings, but a particular way of shaking hands, such as a firm, confident, yet friendly handshake, as is often promoted as good business practice: "Not a very long time ago you could get a loan based on a handshake. So it conveys something very important, very basic. We knew these things intuitively but now we also have the scientific support."

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