There are only five main body language signals that reliably indicate people like each other, new research finds.
- Making eye contact,
- initiating conversation,
- and maintaining physical proximity.
These are all nonverbal signs that people are developing trust and rapport with each other.
Many supposed signs of attraction were not linked to liking, the extensive research found.
- flipping hair,
- using gestures,
- tilting the head,
- lifting the eyebrows,
- primping clothes,
- maintaining open body posture,
- or leaning in.
Some of these might come as a surprise since many articles in the media frequently link them to liking.
People may still perform these gestures when they like you, but they are not reliably related to attraction, the study found.
Dr R. Matthew Montoya, the study’s first author, said:
“There is a specific suite of behaviors associated with liking, and this same set of behaviors can be found in cultures from around the world.”
The conclusions come from a meta-analysis, which brought together the results of 54 different studies.
These all looked at how much someone likes another person and how they act towards them.
It included descriptions from hundreds of different cultures.
The results are not just relevant for romantic attraction, but for any kinds of human liking, Dr Montoya said:
“Whether we engage in these behaviors has little or nothing to do with romantic desires.
These behaviors apply when doctors interact with their patients, parents interact with their kids, or when salespeople talk to their customers.”
Acting in these ways is about increasing trust, Dr Montoya said:
“When we like someone, we act in ways to get them to trust us.
From this perspective, we engage in these behaviors to increase the degree of overlap, interdependence, and commitment to an agreement.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Psychological Bulletin (Montoya et al., 2018).