Handshake makes for better deals in business

August 6, 2018, University of California - Berkeley
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Like any ritual, a handshake may seem like a bizarre gesture when you really stop to consider it. "Why do we touch hands and move them up and down?" says Juliana Schroeder, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. "If you were an alien coming to earth and looking at what people do, you would think, 'What is the purpose of this thing?'"

In new research set to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Schroeder has found that the simple ritual has a profound effect: Shaking hands can improve the outcome of negotiations for both sides.

"When you shake hands with someone, you make an immediate inference that 'They are going to cooperate with me; they are not going to do me harm,'" she says. "And so you decide to cooperate with them."

In the new study, participants were not prompted to shake hands, but researchers noticed that when partners decided of their accord to start their negotiations with a handshake, both ended up scoring more points overall.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that shaking hands produced that outcome. "Maybe handshaking people are just nicer, more conscientious people who tend to be more cooperative," Schroeder says. In order to test cause and effect, she and her colleagues set up a new over a job offer.

This time, some partners were encouraged to shake hands before negotiating, while others were urged to sit down right away—before they had the chance to shake. Once again, those who shook hands reached greater agreement and scored more points.

Schroeder believes the reason for the effect is psychological. "It changes the way you perceive not just the other person, but the way you frame the whole game," she says. "You say to yourself, 'Now we are in a cooperative setting rather than an antagonistic one.'"

Explore further: Why shaking hands matters (even when it's with a robot)

More information: Juliana Schroeder et al. Handshaking Promotes Cooperative Dealmaking, SSRN Electronic Journal (2014). DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.2443674

Related Stories

I'd like to thank... myself

March 7, 2016

When Leonardo DiCaprio accepted his Oscar for Best Actor in "The Revenant" this year, he acknowledged the hard work of the movie's entire team. But such generosity isn't always the case. On large teams—such as big film ...

Washing your hands makes you optimistic

October 24, 2013

Washing our hands influences how we think, judge and decide. This is what researchers were able to confirm through experiments over the last few years.

Recommended for you

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

Tiny particles can switch back and forth between phases

February 15, 2019

Three years ago, when Richard Robinson, associate professor of materials science and engineering, was on sabbatical at Hebrew University in Israel, he asked a graduate student to send him some nanoparticles of a specific ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.