Handshakes and Personality

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Handshakes were rated on nine different aspects by examiners and then participants were given a personality test based on the Big Five Factor Model. The handshakes were then compared to the results from the personality tests and scored based on the most dominant features of personality. Those with firm handshakes and good eye contact were found to be more extroverted and more agreeable, were as those with weaker handshakes and less eye contact were more introverted and less open to new experience. The complete results are far more complex and more informative about many types of handshakes and the personalities that belong to the people giving them. The results show a considerable correlation between the handshake someone gives, and their personality.

Keywords: Big Five Factor Model, handshakes, personality

Handshakes and Personality
The beginning of the handshake predates written history, making a definite explanation impossible. Many stories exist to explain the origin, ranging from comedic to spiritual. The most plausible explanation comes from the medieval times, where the open right hand indicated you were not carrying a weapon. If two men met and displayed empty right hands, they could assume they would not be attacked by the other (Varley, 2009).

In everyday American life, people are constantly greeting one another in many different fashions. In the American business world, the handshake is dominant salutations. While as children our opportunity to practice the handshake is rarely given and as we enter adulthood, we are thrown into this highly regarded greeting. We are always told to have firm grip and make good eye contact, but handshakes tend to be very different with everyone you meet. Why is this? Our major personality traits tend to over ride our intended actions, creating a very natural way of doing things; based on whom we are. With practice, we can manipulate our handshake to be a more desirable but most people would not think of this because, yet again, our personality takes over in situations such as this. Handshakes are interpersonally coordinated behaviors that require motivation and practice to perform well. Therefore, conscientiousness may predict how well handshakes are executed (Bernieri & Petty, 2011). You could consider this to be similar to the fight or flight theory where the "fight or flight response" is our body's primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to "fight" or "flee" from perceived attack, harm or threat to our survival (Neimark). Although we can think about how we would want to act in a stressful situation, our natural instincts take over and cause us to do things we could not predict regardless of how slight the level of stress may be. Shaking a person’s hand may not seem stressful but in a given situation, such as a job interview, our nervousness can cause us to lose focus on how a handshake should be given; therefore causing a more natural reaction. While in these situations you may be able to tell a lot about someone’s personality based on their handshake. "A handshake is as much a part of personality as the way we walk, and although we may modify and improve a poor handshake if someone calls our attention to it, it will still usually be just like us, assured or timid, warm or cool"(Chaplin, 2000). When someone shows good eye contact, they receive better ratings on appearance, poise, integrity, self-confidence, maturity, and communication skills (Burkhardt, Weider-Hatfield & Hocking, 1985). There is a correlation to be found between someone’s personality and his or her handshake.

In the study, Exploring the Handshake in Employment Interviews, the authors attempted to find a correlation between handshakes and hire-ability. This study is very informative about the American business world and helps to discover which handshake, if any, has more influence in an interview. Mock interviews were staged and undergraduate students were...
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