If you're looking to be more charismatic, the internet has lots of suggestions to offer. You should make more eye contact, suggests one post. Just declutter your mind, advises another expert. These common sense suggestions probably won't hurt your chances of being more charming, but they're not backed by science. What advice is?

Probably not what you're expecting. According to new research, the secret to being more charismatic isn't any psychological or behavioral trick, but simply the ability think on your feet.

When it comes to charisma, quick beats smart

The study, led by William von Hippel of the University of Queensland in Australia, aimed  to discover the secret sauce that makes some people exceptionally charismatic. To figure this out, the research team asked the friends of 417 study subjects to rate their level of charisma. They then tested the subjects' mental quickness, asking them to answer general knowledge questions as fast as they could or complete a timed pattern recognition task.

The faster people were able to react, the greater charisma they were perceived to possess. Quick thinking, it turns out, seems to be the secret to incredible charisma.

"Although we expected mental speed to predict charisma, we thought that it would be less important than IQ. Instead, we found that how smart people were was less important than how quick they were. So knowing the right answer to a tough question appears to be less important than being able to consider a large number of social responses in a brief window of time," Von Hippel said of the study findings.

Why exactly is the speed of your thinking so important when it comes to charming others? The study doesn't provide a definitive answer, but the researchers speculate that the ability to rapidly assess a situation, call funny associations to mind, or course correct when a response falls flat may account for the association between a quick mind and exceptional charisma.

The scientists behind this particular research don't offer any concrete advice on how their findings can be put to use by those hoping to be more likable and persuasive. Previous studies have offered some suggestions, however, including mirroring the body language of a conversational partner, matching others' walking speed, and simply smiling. All of these small changes have been shown to increase others' perception of your charisma.

Published on: Dec 24, 2015
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