Dominant, open nonverbal displays are attractive at zero-acquaintance

Edited by Susan T. Fiske, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, and approved February 22, 2016 (received for review May 12, 2015)
March 28, 2016
113 (15) 4009-4014


This set of studies tested whether humans are more attracted to individuals displaying their bodies expansively, a behavior considered to express both dominance and openness. Results from two field studies—a speed-dating event and a controlled experiment using a Global Positioning System-based dating application—suggested that (i) expansive (vs. contractive) body posture increases one’s romantic desirability; (ii) these results are consistent across gender; and (iii) perceived dominance and perceived openness are mechanisms through which expansiveness exerts its effect. These findings indicate that in modern-day dating contexts, in which initial attraction often is determined by a rapid decision following a brief interaction or seeing a photograph, displays of expansive posture increase one’s chances of initial romantic success.


Across two field studies of romantic attraction, we demonstrate that postural expansiveness makes humans more romantically appealing. In a field study (n = 144 speed-dates), we coded nonverbal behaviors associated with liking, love, and dominance. Postural expansiveness—expanding the body in physical space—was most predictive of attraction, with each one-unit increase in coded behavior from the video recordings nearly doubling a person’s odds of getting a “yes” response from one’s speed-dating partner. In a subsequent field experiment (n = 3,000), we tested the causality of postural expansion (vs. contraction) on attraction using a popular Global Positioning System-based online-dating application. Mate-seekers rapidly flipped through photographs of potential sexual/date partners, selecting those they desired to meet for a date. Mate-seekers were significantly more likely to select partners displaying an expansive (vs. contractive) nonverbal posture. Mediation analyses demonstrate one plausible mechanism through which expansiveness is appealing: Expansiveness makes the dating candidate appear more dominant. In a dating world in which success sometimes is determined by a split-second decision rendered after a brief interaction or exposure to a static photograph, single persons have very little time to make a good impression. Our research suggests that a nonverbal dominance display increases a person’s chances of being selected as a potential mate.

Continue Reading


We thank Amanda Bowling, Samantha Chu, Shimmy Gabbara, Kyonne Isaac, Kevin Jung, Ikya Kandula, Nichanan Kesonpat, Evania Liu, Nick Nichiporuk, Lusia Tianyao Wang, and Nicole Zeng for help with data coding, data collection, and management of the project and two anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions. This work was supported by National Science Foundation Award 1056194 (to D.R.C.).

Supporting Information

Supporting Information (PDF)
Supporting Information


RF Baumeister, MR Leary, The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychol Bull 117, 497–529 (1995).
RF Baumeister, KR Catanese, KD Vohs, Is there a gender difference in strength of sex drive? Theoretical views, conceptual distinctions, and a review of relevant evidence. Pers Soc Psychol Rev 5, 242–273 (2001).
S Lundberg, RA Pollak, Cohabitation and the uneven retreat from marriage in the US, 1950-2010. Human Capital in History: The American Record (Univ of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2013).
DM Buss, DP Schmitt, Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychol Rev 100, 204–232 (1993).
L Tickle-Degnen, R Rosenthal, The nature of rapport and its nonverbal correlates. Psychol Inq 1, 285–293 (1990).
L Johnston, L Miles, CN Macrae, Why are you smiling at me? Social functions of enjoyment and non-enjoyment smiles. Br J Soc Psychol 49, 107–127 (2010).
K Grammer, Strangers meet: Laughter and nonverbal signs of interest in opposite-sex encounters. J Nonverbal Behav 14, 209–236 (1990).
GC Gonzaga, D Keltner, EA Londahl, MD Smith, Love and the commitment problem in romantic relations and friendship. J Pers Soc Psychol 81, 247–262 (2001).
N Ambady, R Rosenthal, Thin slices of behavior as predictors of interpersonal consequences: A meta-analysis. Psychol Bull 111, 256–274 (1992).
DR Carney, CR Colvin, JA Hall, A thin slice perspective on the accuracy of first impressions. J Res Pers 41, 1054–1072 (2007).
M Bar, M Neta, H Linz, Very first impressions. Emotion 6, 269–278 (2006).
MF Mason, EP Tatkow, CN Macrae, The look of love: Gaze shifts and person perception. Psychol Sci 16, 236–239 (2005).
NN Oosterhof, A Todorov, The functional basis of face evaluation. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105, 11087–11092 (2008).
A Todorov, M Pakrashi, NN Oosterhof, Evaluating faces on trustworthiness after minimal time exposure. Soc Cogn 27, 813–833 (2009).
DR Carney, JA Hall, L Smith LeBeau, Beliefs about the nonverbal expression of social power. J Nonverbal Behav 29, 105–123 (2005).
E Ranehill, et al., Assessing the robustness of power posing: No effect on hormones and risk tolerance in a large sample of men and women. Psychol Sci 26, 653–656 (2015).
JA Hall, EJ Coats, LS LeBeau, Nonverbal behavior and the vertical dimension of social relations: A meta-analysis. Psychol Bull 131, 898–924 (2005).
LZ Tiedens, AR Fragale, Power moves: Complementarity in dominant and submissive nonverbal behavior. J Pers Soc Psychol 84, 558–568 (2003).
JC Magee, AD Galinsky, Social hierarchy: The self-reinforcing nature of power and status. Acad Management Ann 2, 351–398 (2008).
JK Burgoon, ML Johnson, PT Koch, The nature and measurement of interpersonal dominance. Commun Monogr 65, 308–335 (1998).
ST Fiske, Interpersonal stratification: Status, power, and subordination. Handbook of Social Psychology, eds ST Fiske, DT Gilbert, G Lindzey (Wiley, New York), pp. 941–982 (2010).
ST Fiske Envy Up, Scorn Down: How Status Divides Us (Russell Sage Foundation, New York, 2012).
PW Eastwick, LB Luchies, EJ Finkel, LL Hunt, The predictive validity of ideal partner preferences: A review and meta-analysis. Psychol Bull 140, 623–665 (2014a).
GJO Fletcher, JA Simpson, G Thomas, L Giles, Ideals in intimate relationships. J Pers Soc Psychol 76, 72–89 (1999).
LA Renninger, TJ Wade, K Grammer, Getting that female glance: Patterns and consequences of male nonverbal behavior in courtship contexts. Evol Hum Behav 25, 416–431 (2004).
MA Landolt, ML Lalumiere, VL Quinsey, Sex differences in intra-sex variations in human mating tactics: An evolutionary approach. Ethol Sociobiol 16, 3–23 (1995).
JM Townsend, GD Levy, Effects of potential partners’ costume and physical attractiveness on sexuality and partner selection. J Psychol 124, 371–389 (1990).
PW Eastwick, et al., Act with authority: Romantic desire at the nexus of power possessed and power perceived. J Exp Soc Psychol 49, 267–271 (2013).
J Alcock Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach (Sinauer, Sunderland, MA, 1993).
DGM Wood-Gush, The courtship of the Brown Leghorn cock. Br J Anim Behav 2, 95–102 (1954).
AC Stein, JAC Uy, Plumage brightness predicts male mating success in the lekking golden-collared manakin, Manacus vitellinus. Behav Ecol 17, 41–47 (2006).
X Lu, Male behaviors of socially monogamous Tibetan eared-pheasants during the breeding season. Wilson J Ornithol 119, 592–601 (2007).
M Petrie, T Halliday, Experimental and natural changes in the peacock’s (Pavo cristatus) train can affect mating success. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 35, 213–217 (1994).
M Petrie, H Tim, S Carolyn, Peahens prefer peacocks with elaborate trains. Anim Behav 41, 323–331 (1991).
MM Robbins, Male mating patterns in wild multimale mountain gorilla groups. Anim Behav 57, 1013–1020 (1999).
F de Waal Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes (Johns Hopkins Univ Press, Baltimore, 1998).
BJ Le Boeuf, RS Peterson, Social status and mating activity in elephant seals. Science 163, 91–93 (1969).
CC Carpenter, Patterns of behavior in two Oklahoma lizards. Am Midl Nat 67, 132–151 (1962).
J Karubian, JP Swaddle, CW Varian‐Ramos, MS Webster, The relative importance of male tail length and nuptial plumage on social dominance and mate choice in the red‐backed fairy‐wren Malurus melanocephalus: Evidence for the multiple receiver hypothesis. J Avian Biol 40, 559–568 (2009).
TJ Andrews, CH Summers, Aggression, and the acquisition and function of social dominance in female Anolis carolinensis. Behaviour 133, 1265–1279 (1996).
DP Mackinnon, CM Lockwood, J Williams, Confidence limits for the indirect effect: Distribution of the product and resampling methods. Multivariate Behav Res 39, 99–128 (2004).
JP Selig, KJ Preacher, Monte Carlo method for assessing Mediation: An interactive tool for creating confidence intervals for indirect effects. Available at Accessed July 24, 2014. (2008).
R Trivers Parental Investment and Sexual Selection. Sexual Selection and the Descent of Man 1871–1971, ed B Campbell (Aldine, Chicago), pp. 139–179 (1972).
R Kurzban, J Weeden, HurryDate: Mate preferences in action. Evol Hum Behav 26, 227–244 (2005).
JL Krull, DP MacKinnon, Multilevel modeling of individual and group level mediated effects. Multivariate Behav Res 36, 249–277 (2001).
DP Mackinnon Introduction to Statistical Mediation Analysis (Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ, 2008).
DP MacKinnon, AJ Fairchild, MS Fritz, Mediation analysis. Annu Rev Psychol 58, 593–614 (2007).
GL Wells, PD Windschitl, Stimulus sampling and social psychological experimentation. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 25, 1115–1125 (1999).
A Pusey, J Williams, J Goodall, The influence of dominance rank on the reproductive success of female chimpanzees. Science 277, 828–831 (1997).
DW Addington, The relationship of selected vocal characteristics to personality perception. Speech Monogr 35, 492–503 (1968).
CL Kleinke, AA Bustos, FB Meeker, RA Staneski, Effects of self-attributed and other-attributed gaze on interpersonal evaluations between males and females. J Exp Soc Psychol 9, 154–163 (1973).
A Mehrabian, Relationship of attitude to seated posture, orientation, and distance. J Pers Soc Psychol 10, 26–30 (1968).
PW Eastwick, LB Luchies, EJ Finkel, LL Hunt, The many voices of Darwin’s descendants: Reply to Schmitt (2014). Psychol Bull 140, 673–681 (2014b).
M LaFrance, C Mayo, A review of nonverbal behaviors of women and men. West J Commun 43, 96–107 (1979).
PW Eastwick, EJ Finkel, Sex differences in mate preferences revisited: Do people know what they initially desire in a romantic partner? J Pers Soc Psychol 94, 245–264 (2008).
56 (2015). Singles in America 2015 survey. Available at Accessed April 30, 2015.
MJ Rosenfeld, RJ Thomas, Searching for a mate the rise of the internet as a social intermediary. Am Sociol Rev 77, 523–547 (2012).
58 (2015) Location-based dating apps trend report. Available at Accessed April 30, 2015.
R Belk, Possessions and the extended self. J Consum Res 15, 139–168 (1988).
JW Thibaut, HH Kelley The Social Psychology of Groups (Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, NJ, 1959).
JJ Gibson, The theory of affordances. Perceiving, Acting, and Knowing, eds R Shaw, J Bransford (Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ), pp. 67–82 (1977).
EJ Finkel, The I3 model: Metatheory, theory, and evidence. Avances in Experimental Social Psychology, eds JM Olson, MP Zanna (Academic, San Diego) Vol 49, 1–104 (2014).
DA Belsley, E Kuh, R Welsch Regression diagnostics: Identifying influential data and sources of collinearity (John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ) Vol 571 (2005).
EJ Finkel, PW Eastwick, J Matthews, Speed-dating as an invaluable tool for studying romantic attraction: A methodological primer. Pers Relatsh 14, 149–166 (2007).
SL Arnette, II TF Pettijohn, The effects of posture on self-perceived leadership. Int J Bus Soc Sci 3, 8–13 (2012).
VK Bohns, SS Wiltermuth, It hurts when I do this (or you do that): Posture and pain tolerance. J Exp Soc Psychol 48, 341–345 (2012).
J Cesario, MM McDonald, Bodies in context: Power poses as a computation of action possibility. Soc Cogn 31, 260–274 (2013).
AJC Cuddy, CA Wilmuth, AJ Yap, DR Carney, Preparatory power posing affects nonverbal presence and job interview performance. J Appl Psychol 100, 1286–1295 (2015).
L Huang, AD Galinsky, DH Gruenfeld, LE Guillory, Powerful postures versus powerful roles: Which is the proximate correlate of thought and behavior? Psychol Sci 22, 95–102 (2011).
LE Park, L Streamer, L Huang, AD Galinsky, Stand tall, but don’t put your feet up: Universal and culturally-specific effects of expansive postures on power. J Exp Soc Psychol 49, 965–971 (2013).
AJ Yap, AS Wazlawek, BJ Lucas, AJC Cuddy, DR Carney, The ergonomics of dishonesty: The effect of incidental posture on stealing, cheating, and traffic violations. Psychol Sci 24, 2281–2289 (2013).
AP Kalma, L Visser, A Peeters, Social and aggressive dominance: Personality differences in leadership style? Leadersh Q 4, 45–64 (1991).
OP John, S Srivastava, The big five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoretical perspectives. Handbook of Personality: Theory and Research, eds LA Pervin, OP John (Guilford, New York), pp. 102–138 (1999).
PW Eastwick, SD Saigal, EJ Finkel, Smooth operating: A structural analysis of social behavior (SASB) perspective on initial romantic encounters. Soc Psychol Pers Sci 1, 344–352 (2010).
PW Eastwick, AH Eagly, EJ Finkel, SE Johnson, Implicit and explicit preferences for physical attractiveness in a romantic partner: A double dissociation in predictive validity. J Pers Soc Psychol 101, 993–1011 (2011).
ND Tidwell, PW Eastwick, EJ Finkel, Perceived, not actual, similarity predicts initial attraction in a live romantic context: Evidence from the speed-dating paradigm. Pers Relationship 20, 199–215 (2013).
ME Ireland, et al., Language style matching predicts relationship initiation and stability. Psychol Sci 22, 39–44 (2011).

Information & Authors


Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 113 | No. 15
April 12, 2016
PubMed: 27035937


Submission history

Published online: March 28, 2016
Published in issue: April 12, 2016


  1. attraction
  2. postural expansiveness
  3. mate selection
  4. nonverbal behavior
  5. romantic relationships


We thank Amanda Bowling, Samantha Chu, Shimmy Gabbara, Kyonne Isaac, Kevin Jung, Ikya Kandula, Nichanan Kesonpat, Evania Liu, Nick Nichiporuk, Lusia Tianyao Wang, and Nicole Zeng for help with data coding, data collection, and management of the project and two anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions. This work was supported by National Science Foundation Award 1056194 (to D.R.C.).


This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.
*For simplicity in the current report, we refer to expansiveness as the nonverbal display of dominance, although expansiveness may signify other types of verticality (e.g., power, status). Aspects of an expansive display also may trigger perceptions of other closely associated traits that reflect subfacets of the dominance construct (e.g., emotional stability, relaxedness).
Given the low number of females choosing males, the nested analysis was supplemented with mediation analyses not utilizing the Monte Carlo method. These analyses suggested that dominance was a significant mediator for both females [95% CI (0.31, 1.04)] and males [95% CI (0.004, 0.03)] but that openness was not a significant mediator for either females (−0.08, 0.008) or males (−0.005, 0.005).
P.W.E. and E.J.F. hosted several speed-dating events. However, only one event was coded; this event was chosen because data were reasonably complete and it had an equal number of men and women. Other articles draw from this same speed-dating dataset (7477).
Additional photographs can be added to a person’s profile, although only the primary one appears when a profile is initially presented.
Confederates provided consent to be photographed and being featured on a profile under a pseudonym (e.g., “Jessica” or “Michael”). Research assistants who were blind to study hypotheses handled confederates' profiles.
The most popular male and female names in the United States in 1989 (, the year corresponding with each confederate’s listed age of 25 years.



Tanya Vacharkulksemsuk1 [email protected]
Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720;
Emily Reit
Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720;
Poruz Khambatta
Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305;
Paul W. Eastwick
Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712;
Eli J. Finkel
Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, 60208;
Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, 60208
Dana R. Carney1 [email protected]
Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720;


To whom correspondence may be addressed. Email: [email protected] or [email protected].
Author contributions: T.V., E.R., P.K., P.W.E., E.J.F., and D.R.C. designed research; T.V., E.R., P.W.E., E.J.F., and D.R.C. collected the data; T.V., E.R., and D.R.C. analyzed the data; T.V. and D.R.C. wrote the paper; and E.R., P.K., P.W.E., and E.J.F. contributed to writing the paper.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Metrics & Citations


Note: The article usage is presented with a three- to four-day delay and will update daily once available. Due to ths delay, usage data will not appear immediately following publication. Citation information is sourced from Crossref Cited-by service.

Citation statements



If you have the appropriate software installed, you can download article citation data to the citation manager of your choice. Simply select your manager software from the list below and click Download.

Cited by


    View Options

    View options

    PDF format

    Download this article as a PDF file


    Get Access

    Login options

    Check if you have access through your login credentials or your institution to get full access on this article.

    Personal login Institutional Login

    Recommend to a librarian

    Recommend PNAS to a Librarian

    Purchase options

    Purchase this article to get full access to it.

    Single Article Purchase

    Dominant, open nonverbal displays are attractive at zero-acquaintance
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 113
    • No. 15
    • pp. 3903-E2208







    Share article link

    Share on social media