Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 345–365 | Cite as

When Nonverbal Greetings “Make It or Break It”: The Role of Ethnicity and Gender in the Effect of Handshake on Social Appraisals

Original Paper


Despite previous evidence identifying the role of ethnic and gender differences in nonverbal communication, few studies have comprehensively investigated the role of these factors in the effect of handshake on appraisals of social interactions. Here, 88 young adults (with equal proportions of Caucasians and East Asians, and women and men) observed and evaluated a series of movies illustrating guest–host interactions in a business setting. Each interaction started with a greeting protocol initiated by the host, which, in half of the trials, involved a handshake. The greeting was followed by a display of behaviors either encouraging (approach) or discouraging (avoidance) further interaction. Ethnicity and gender of the hosts were manipulated to depict the same categories represented by participants. First, the effect of handshake on appraisals of social interactions was more positive in Caucasian than in East Asian participants. Second, the effect of handshake on appraisals of social interactions was more positive for male than for female hosts in male participants, whereas such differences were not observed in female participants. Third, appraisals of social interactions involving approach and avoidance behaviors were more positive in Caucasian than in East Asian participants. Finally, appraisals of social interactions involving approach behaviors were more positive in female than in male participants. Overall, 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.


First impression Greeting behavior Nonverbal communication Emotion Intergroup process 



This research was carried out in part at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois. During the preparation of this manuscript, YK was supported by the Honjo International Scholarship Foundation, and FD was supported by a Helen Corley Petit Endowed Scholarship in Liberal Arts and Sciences and an Emanuel Donchin Professorial Scholarship in Psychology from the University of Illinois. The authors thank Gina Giase for assistance with stimulus creation.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10919_2017_257_MOESM1_ESM.docx (22 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 21 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology Department and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and TechnologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaignUSA
  2. 2.The Information SchoolUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.College of Information and Computer SciencesUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA
  4. 4.Psychology Department, Neuroscience Program, and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and TechnologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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