Low-Effort Ways to Be More Likeable

Leveraging the brain’s hemispheric specialisation, and perception of cross-modal and familiar stimuli to your advantage: a lazy person's guide

Turn the other cheek

I’m not quoting the Gospel of Matthew here, I mean literally turn the other cheek. Due to the nature of hemispheric specialisation in the brain, we are inclined to judge pictures of people turning their heads to offer up their left cheek as more emotional.

This left cheek bias is due to the contralateral (opposite side) processing of emotion predominately in the brain’s right hemisphere. As the left side of the face—specifically, the lower two-thirds—is innervated by the right hemisphere, it is as a consequence more emotionally expressive than the right, displaying both smiles and sneers more intensely.

So next time you wish to be perceived as open and creative, simply turn your head 15 degrees to the right. On the other hand (or rather cheek), if you wish to convey an impression of yourself as serious and brainy, turn your head to the left instead.

Just keeping showing up

I train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Whenever someone asks how they can get better more often than not they’ll be told to, ‘Just keep turning up’. When I advise you to keep showing up am I suggesting consistency, hard work and applying yourself is the key to likeability?

Hardly.

This is the lazy person’s guide, remember? I mean: just keep showing up. The mere exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon wherein repeated exposure to a neutral stimulus increases how positively we perceive it. Through benign repetition of a stimulus we come to develop positive feelings and a preference for it.

Be that neutral, milquetoast stimulus. In other words, don’t just show up repeatedly, do so quietly and unobtrusively. Perhaps this section would be more accurately titled, ‘Sit down and shut up’.

Be warm

I’m not suggesting you cultivate a warm personality—far too much effort. Physically warm those you wish to charm by offering a hug or a cup of tea, and through the transitive properties of cross-modal perception, you will also convey interpersonal warmth.

In an experiment conducted at Yale University, participants were asked to hold either a warm cup of coffee or a cold iced coffee as a favour to the research assistant conducting the study. Participants in the hot coffee condition were significantly more likely to judge the research assistant as being more generous and caring. (I must say, I wouldn’t feel too warmly about anyone asking me to hold their sticky condensation-covered beverage.)

A neuroimaging study by Inagaki and Eisenberger (2018) showed overlapping neural activity for physical and social warmth, suggesting that similar mechanisms underlie physical warmth and those warm fuzzy feeling you get from positive social interactions.

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