Body Language Predict Applause Speaker Will Receive
Christopher Philip

It’s no secret that our nonverbals play an important role in how we’re perceived and judged. With that said, just how important nonverbals play with respect to our impression formation has never been quantified. Additionally, most of us are not public speakers, but all of us will interact with people socially on a daily basis in one way or another.

Thus, toward producing a better understanding of how important our nonverbal signals are toward social approval, researcher Markus Koppensteiner, Department of Anthropology, University of Vienna, Althanstraße, led a team of researchers on a study to investigate how applause and jeers were predicted by the body movements of public speakers.

In the study, 60 speeches (30 male and 30 female) from parliamentary sessions of the German parliament we extracted. The clips were randomly selected and were of about 15 seconds in length. These were then converted to stick figure animations and then judged by subjects on trustworthiness, dominance, competence and the Big Five personality dimensions. Then, the ratings were correlated to applause and hecklings which were received throughout their entire speech.

Results found that the amount of applause was positively related to perceptions of dominance and extraversion but low on agreeableness. In other words, the higher a speaker scored on dominance and extraversion, the more applause they received.

“Nonverbal displays expressing qualities such as dominance might be important for those who strive for leadership positions while potential followers might benefit from easily recognizing who has the ability to be a leader,” say the researchers in their paper.

While the results speak nothing of day-to-day interactions, it is unlikely that we should expect much different. Those people who can hold their dominance postures and remain extroverted in conversation should receive a boost in public perception – even in a smaller social setting.


Koppensteiner, Markus, Pia Stephan and Johannes Paul Michael Jäschke. From body motion to cheers: Speakers’ body movements as predictors of applause. Personality and Individual Differences. 2015. 74: 182–185.