In this social media driven world today we meet and get to know people without ever having met them in person. People get connected and arrange for interviews without so much as a word spoken. Hopefully, eventually an actual meeting takes place. We have known in business, politics and social encounters that a firm handshake has an important role to play in that first meeting. Now science has provided evidence of the impact of a handshake.
Handshakes supposedly came about early in human history as a way of showing that the people greeting each other held no weapon. Certainly this was an important signal in such encounters. Sculptures depict handshakes as far back as 5 B.C. Today researchers at the Beckman Institute have demonstrated value to the handshake beyond this signal. In a paper published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience they discussed the neural components of a handshake. Researchers Florin Dolcos and Sandra Dolcos found 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.” In other words a good handshake can not only reinforce a positive impression it can help overcome a negative impression. So much for only having one chance to make a first impression.
Impact on the brain
Don’t worry I am not really going to give you the science of the brain research, other than this statement. The “… nucleus accumbens , which is a reward processing region, showed greater activity for Handshake than for No-handshake conditions.” This means the brain reacts positively when a handshake is received and according to the researchers this effect was accentuated if the handshake was firm, confident, yet friendly, just the type that all the interview advice books offer.
History and importance
As I mentioned above handshakes have been around for a long time. Deals have been made on a handshake that changed the course of history. My favorite President, Theodore Roosevelt stood at the door to the White House on New Year’s Day in 1907 and shook the hand of every person who came to see him, 8,510 people in total. The handshake has had an important place in human history and I don’t see it going away anytime soon, despite efforts to get people to stop. It makes a neural connection between us and the next person.
So the next time you are greeting a business partner, an interviewer, a prospect or a new friend remember you are not just being courteous, you are establishing a neural connection that leaves a positive impression.
Source: Science Daily, Oct. 19, 2012 Science Reveals the Power of a Handshake