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Body Language Reveals Wealth (livescience.com)
32 points by abl on Feb 11, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 30 comments

I should point out that the conclusion of the linked study is complete bullshit. It claimed that poor people are more polite than rich people. What it should have claimed was that poor people who went to Berkeley are more polite than rich people who went to Berkeley.

Poor people who go to Berkeley are likely to be moving up in the world relative to their families; their eyes are being opened to a whole new world of knowledge and power and all that, and they are humbled by it.

Rich people who go to Berkeley are likely to come from prep schools, and feel vindicated by having been admitted to a top school, and therefore are snooty.

The conclusion doesn't jibe at all with my personal experience, either, and I think this is why.

Also they only studied people who got rich by having rich parents. It would be more interesting to study people who became rich through their actions.

"You are a product of your environment." --Clement Stone

Second. Also, its kind of funy and very disturbing when researchers think they can analyze so complex a subject like differences in behavior in relation to wealth with such a small sample-size and with so many free variables. It illustrates a hubris that I am afraid has become far too common. Science is about asking questions and nowadays, researchers aren't asking enough of them.

Yes, I do hack my body language, though not in the ways described in the article.

Through college, I had a weak posture, submissive body language, and tended to fidget/move around. I often looked goofy.

About six months ago, I decided to improve all that. I consciously developed an upright, chest-out posture. I cut down or eliminated unnecessary motions. I keep my hands extended and parallel to the arms, instead of close-fisted and angled inwards. I keep my chin up and my gaze high. I keep my legs outward and, when comfortable, spread apart.

By now, it's all become second nature. And it works. Women react much more strongly to me (in a good way). I feel more confident. My body image has greatly improved.

As software developers, most of us spend a lot of time seated in chairs and have less than Adonis-like physiques. I highly recommend body language hacking.

The reason I posted this to HN, is because I am curious as to how many people here hack at their own body language, and whether you tend to focus on "improving" it, or just let it be "natural", whatever that means. And if you are "improving" it, what are your considerations for particular situations? Do you try act as if you are from a lower SES, to try to level yourself with your listener, or the other way around - try to increase the perceived importance of your SES in order to put down your listener?

There are some good papers on perceived IQ, and how perceived IQ correlates with actual IQ. It turns out that pIQ is mostly a function of body language, eye contact, rate of speech, and things like that; what comes out of your mouth doesn't actually matter all that much. Some of the factors you are able to fake and boost your pIQ, but most you aren't. So if you are into that it would pay off well to figure out what those are. :-)

Social skills can be hacked. Remember unconscious incompetence -> conscious competence.

RE: Body Language.

Move slow, talk slow, be an approval giver (not a seeker). We all have the capacity to be at the level of Bill Clinton or other legendary communicators - we do it on first dates, job interviews - he does it all the time. One of my most networked/outgoing friends consciously goes into certain situations like 'she owns the venue'. Also if you talk to everyone, you can hide the fact that you are interested in not everyone. You might also try videotaping your body language when you are with friends/familiar situation vs strangers/safe situation. You will have to try this to realize the power of this - but if you really, really want to talk to a group or even a cute female who is seated alone/together, drag a chair over from the other side of the room (noisily if possible) and sit down with them. That demonstrates commitment and is an opener all-in-one.

RE: Peer ratings

They are a form of social proof (raters do not exist in a bubble).

"Similarly, a person who has been unemployed for a long time may have a hard time finding a new job - even if they are highly skilled and qualified. Potential employers attribute wrongly the person's lack of employment to the person rather than the situation. This causes the potential employers to search more intensively for flaws or other negative characteristics that are "congruent" with or explain the person's failure and to discount the applicant's virtues."



One of the more clever and disturbing ways to gain 'power' over an individual is to play the student in the master-student role. E.g. by having them teach you something - which is doing you a favor, you can gain their favor.

Ben Franklin: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=145544

re: last point - Sounds like every girl who ever asked me to help her with her homework...

That might be true in the general population, but I'm hoping that at least in the scientist or the hacker population this effect is mitigated...

I love how searching google for "perceived iq" now brings up this comment as the third result.

Google loves Hacker News. Does anybody know, why?

Do you by any chance have links to any of those papers? Curious.

I lost my JSTOR account, but here is the first one that came up in Google:


If you read through that you can probably find more using the citations and keywords they use. There might also be more papers by the same authors.

There is another one where they turn around and have people try to fake having higher IQs, but unfortunately I didn't save it.

I never really paid much attention to mine: after all, I'm a nerd, judge me on what I do, not how I look. However, when I ran for office, I found that I needed to - because the vast majority of people judge solely on looks, appearance, and to a much lesser degree, actual message.

I notice it's hard to get things done in a meeting when your arms are crossed over your chest or abdomen. It's the universal sign of "I disagree with you and I'm on the defensive" Try this: cross your arms, and the person across from you will inevitably do so as well. I find that when they do that, it's much harder to convince them of your point of view. It's almost as if their defensive posture puts their mind into defensive mode. The opposite seems to hold true as well: relax your posture (open arms) and the person will be more receptive.

It's called mirroring - a psychology process in building rapport. We all do it when comfortable with a friend / family member. You can use this to your advantage to win people over to your side. Just try not to be too obvious or they might spot you! ;)

Never happened to me. And I am ├╝ber-obvious.

I used to believe that too (and there are dozens of books that actually say the same) - but what I've noticed for quite some time now is that this little bit of posture doesn't play that big of a role, after all. Probably because everybody has read the same best-seller 'mastering body language' books.

It's interesting that folding your arms when faced with a difficult problem can make you more persevering. http://www2.canada.com/components/print.aspx?id=fb05abc6-149...

When facing a difficult problem and trying to project confidence, I prefer sitting astride a rearing horse, brandishing a sabre.

The body language mirroring and influence thing has a comprehensive theory on using it to your advantage: Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Unfortunately, it has little experimental support, but it's still trendy with the management and life coaches--which doesn't necessarily make it not true; which wouldn't necessarily make it not useful.

This wasn't about trying to project confidence. It was a study that looked at students working alone. I find I will sometimes cross my arms if I am thinking hard about a problem. What was interesting was that the study provided some evidence that it would help me to persevere.

Years ago the author of Dress for Success reported a study noting that women say they like men who are "confident," which asked men to go into bars to start up conversations with women, who then rated the men. If the men were prompted to act confident, the women didn't like the men much. But if the men were prompted to act arrogant, they got much higher ratings from the women. Hmm.

All communication is on the part of the receiver. I automatically substitute "what the other person perceives to be" in front of everything that has to do with communication, especially emotive communication.

I guess if you title your paper "Rich people tend to act like assholes", it's harder to get funding for your next research project.

The data is that more fidgeting and grooming correlated with higher SES, and more nodding, agreeing and eybrow raises correlated with lower SES. There's no link to the study itself, but there's no support in this article how they established causation, and further, even with causation established, that the behaviors are for the reason they give.

I don't. Even the thought is a bit repulsive to me. Regardless, I don't think it's worth the effort, because people are less likely to infer my wealth from my body language; even if they know nothing about me, they have other (more reliable) sources to go by - my clothes, my accent, my hair etc.

This is absolutely true in my experience. I never connected it to SES, though. I just thought the fidgeter/groomer was probably just a jerk.

All seems very subjective to me. The research, I mean.

it would be interesting to know how the body language changed over time.. i.e. is the arrogant body language a cause or effect..

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