Walker, E. J., Bischof, W. F., and Kingstone, A. (2013). Take my hand: The temporal and spatial coordination of handshaking. Joint Action Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, Berlin, July 27-29, 2013.

Handshakes play an important role in joint social actions. They often bookend the start and end of a social interaction, set the tone for how one is perceived (Bernieri & Petty, 2011) and can determine one's future earning potential (Stewart et al., 2008). While past work has focused on the subjective quality of a handshake, the present investigation examines the dynamics and coordination of various nonverbal cues that are critical to shaking hands successfully. Experiment 1 filmed and analysed 177 students as they shook hands with a university chancellor during graduation. The timing and coordination of specific bodily actions -- gaze direction and hand extension -- were suggested to be critical to the remarkable stability we observed between the time the chancellor extended her hand to the time hand contact was made. Experiment 2 tested and confirmed this hypothesis. We demonstrated that a subtle and powerful temporal and spatial relationship between gaze direction and hand extension is crucial to a successful handshake and appears to aid in disambiguating handshakes from other possible actions. For instance, if hand extension precedes joint gaze, then the hand can be interpreted as a directional cue rather than an offer to shake hands.

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