When People Wave Hello and Goodbye

A wise man once said that the only difference between waving hello, or goodbye, is the direction that each person is travelling from one another. I was around ten years old when I first started noticing that people, in and around where I grew up, greeted each other more or less the same way when they were meeting, or departing from each other. From first contact, there was this wave of the hand. And the same thing happened when people were leaving from the gathering. For example, people that I observed would wave back to each other, usually after they said their goodbyes, they would wave through the car window when gazing their final look before departure in their cars. When I was taking a second year Psych course in University, on human behaviour, this was explained to me through theories that tried to explain this behaviour’s origin.

The GOODBYE Girl Weblog Image April 8 2014

For us humans, acknowledging friends and familiar people are important. Whether a form of respect, or to the level of affection towards two people, waving is almost a universal greeting. This is a strong gesture, and one that has strong emotional ties.

Back in 2009, me and a bunch of undergraduates students were setting up our own Psych experiment as part of the course, copying an experiment done in 2005 where a researcher would sit on a bench, and would wave to random people across a busy street. We changed it up a bit by putting a Female researcher as the waver first, then switching to a Male researcher after a total of thirty waves were done. Two researchers would count the number of people who would wave back, and another would observe from the same side of the street that the subjects were on to record their reactions and facial expressions.

Sadly I do not have the results from my group’s assignment–they are lost somewhere. But I do remember that both the Male and Female wavers were almost identical in as far as receiving positive feedback from the subjects in the street experiment.

Still, to this day, I marvel at the complex behaviour of greetings through the gesture of waving we humans do. After nine years since taking that Psych course, I still remember lessons from forensic psychology, studying human behaviour. Waving is a powerful tool in first contact, so use it wisely.

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