You are contagious | Vanessa Van Edwards | TEDxLondon

You are contagious | Vanessa Van Edwards | TEDxLondon

Translator: Ki Yun Lee
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven Hello, my name is Vanessa, and I am a recovering awkward person. (Laughter) This is me at the peak of
what I like to call my plaid vest phase. (Laughter) Luckily, my years of social awkwardness led me to a fascinating career
trying to figure out how people work. So, what I didn’t realize
is that many years ago, I would do an experiment that led me right on this stage
in front of you here today. My lab researchers and I
were curious about TED Talks. We wanted to know, Why do some TED Talks go viral
and others don’t? So we embarked on a huge experiment. We analyzed thousands of hours
of TED Talks, looking for patterns. I wasn’t sure if we would find anything, so we were analyzing body language,
hand gestures, vocal variety – we even looked at outfit choices, which made today
particularly pressure-filled. And very quickly, there was a pattern
in the data that made me curious. And after we coded
more and more TED Talks, we realized there was a pattern. Now, before I tell you what that is,
I have a personal question for you, which is, When you see someone, what part of the body
do you look at first? You can just call it out. What do you look at first
when you see someone? Face, eyes – so most people – shoes. (Laughter) They are very high. So most people
say eyes, face or mouth. But actually, when we first see someone, the first place we look is the hands. And this is left over
from our caveman days. Because if we were approached
by a stranger caveman, the first place we looked was the hands to see if they were
carrying a rock or a spear. We wanted to know if we were safe,
if they were friend or foe. Now, this actually still remains
from caveman days, and when we can’t see someone’s hands, something interesting happens. So I just did something
a little mean to your brain. You should start to feel
just a little bit uncomfortable. The reason for that is
when you can’t see my hands, you wonder, What is she doing back there? (Laughter) And then, the longer I leave
my hands behind my back, you get more and more distracted
because you can’t see them. And eventually,
your brain is just screaming, Can’t she just bring her hands off
from behind her back? And the moment I bring them back out, it feels so much better. And this because our brain knows
that if we can’t see hands, we can’t see intention. And we found as we compared
the most viewed TED Talks side by side with
the least viewed TED Talks, we found a pattern with hand gestures. Specifically, on average, the most popular TED talkers
use an average of 465 hand gestures in 18 minutes. Yes, we painstakingly counted
every single one. I have 465 prepared for you today. (Laughter) And the least popular TED talkers
use an average of 272 hand gestures. Almost half. What’s happening here? So when TED speakers take the stage, they are showing you first
“Friend, friend, friend.” You’ll notice when I walked
onto the stage, I waved. I was saying, “Friend,
friend, friend, friend.” (Laughter) And the other thing that TED speakers do – see if this looks familiar. So they come onto the red dot,
and they do something like this. “Today, I want to talk to you
about a big idea.” (Laughter) “I am going to break it down
into three different areas that are going to change your life.” Right? (Applause) So the most viral TED talkers seemed to sit in the same way
with these hand gestures because what they are doing is
they are showing you, “I know my content so well that I can speak to you
on two different tracks. I can speak to you with my words, but I can also explain
my concepts with my hands.” And this way, they underline
their concepts with their words. For example, if I were to say, “Today, I have a really big idea.” (Laughter) “It’s huge.” (Laughter) You laugh, and you are like, “Vanessa,
it’s so small, it’s not very big,” and that is because your brain gives
12.5 times more weight to hand gestures. So today I have a really, really big idea, and I am going to explain it
to you in three different ways. My big idea is that we are contagious. Specifically, as humans, we are constantly sending
and decoding body language signals. We also do this emotionally
and chemically. To explain this, I have a rather disgusting
but very fascinating study. So, in this study,
researchers collected sweat pads from people who ran on a treadmill. Then they collected sweat pads from skydivers
on their first time skydive. Two very different kinds of sweat. Here is the disgusting part. Then they had poor
unsuspecting participants – (Laughter) I know – they had unsuspecting
participants in the lab (sniffing) smell these sweat pads
while they were in an fMRI machine. Here’s where it gets interesting. Even though the participants
had no idea what they were smelling, the ones that smelled
the skydiving sweat pads had their fear response
in their brain activated. In other words, they caught the fear. This means that
our emotions are contagious. Our fear is contagious.
Our confidence is contagious. And this begs the big question: If our emotions are contagious, how do we make sure that we are
infecting people with the right ones? So, I believe that we can be
contagious in three different ways. The first one is non-verbally. Now, to test this idea, I did a very simple experiment
in the streets of Portland, Oregon. What I did is I stood in the street, and I looked up at nothing. And I wanted to see if people would catch
or mirror my non-verbal. So you can see in this video, I stand in the streets looking at nothing, and slowly one by one … (Laughter) I infect people walking by. (Laughter) And slowly … (Laughter) we begin to gather a crowd. (Laughter) (Applause) This poor woman, you know –
she was standing there with me, and we are standing there,
and remember, we’re looking at nothing. And we are standing, and I am going,
How long are we going to stand here? Who’s going to break first? And after about 40 seconds, we are looking,
and she leans over and says, “Is he going to jump?” (Laughter) And this experience taught me
that we catch emotions, and then we create rationales
for why we’ve caught that emotion. Now, this is actually a good thing. As humans, this keeps us safe. Dr. Paul Ekman has studied something
called the microexpression. It’s a universal facial expression, and he’s discovered
there are seven of them. Across genders and races, we all make the same expression
when we feel an intense emotion. This is the fear microexpression. So, fear is a really important emotion because we want to catch it
from someone else to warn us if something
is about to go wrong. And this facial expression
also keeps us safe. So imagine for a second
that you’re walking and you see a snake. Your eyelids and your eyebrows
jump out of the way so you can take in as much
of the environment as possible. “Is there another snake?
What is my escape route?” Then your mouth – “huh” – opens so you can take in oxygen in case
you have to fight, yell for help, or flee. We make this face before
we consciously realize we’ve seen a snake. Now, what’s interesting about it is you should be starting
to feel a little bit anxious. That’s because when we
see other people have fear – If we saw this face in the subway, we would be like,
What’s wrong? What’s going on? Because it keeps us safe. So I want you to try it with me. Open your eyes as wide as possible. Raise your eyebrows up. Very good. Now, take in a short breath. (Gasp) Perfect. Do you feel anxious? What’s interesting
about facial expressions is they cause our emotions. So not only do our emotions
cause our face, but our face also causes our emotions. It’s called the facial
feedback hypothesis. So when we see someone with this face,
we catch their emotion, and then we are ready to fight,
flee, or yell for help. Luckily, this also works
with positive emotions. So one of the faces behind me
is a real happiness microexpression, and one of them is fake. (Laughter) So the real happiness microexpression
is when the smile reaches all the way up into these upper crow’s feet muscles,
those upper cheek muscles. And this is really important because, you know,
when you tell a frenemy good news, (Laughter) and they say they are happy for you,
but you know they are not really. It looks like this –
“Oh yeah, I am so happy for you.” (Laughter) So try the fake expression for me first. Just try this fake smile,
only on the bottom half of the face. You can even go, “Uh, uh.” It doesn’t feel so good, right? It feels inauthentic. Now, go all the way up into your eyes. So smile all the way up
to the upper cheek muscles. Ah, that one should feel
so much better. What is interesting
about this facial expression is it causes our own happiness. And we also catch it when we see it. Researchers of the University of Finland
looked at these two facial expressions. They had participants look at photos of people with the real happiness
and fake happiness. They found that
when they showed participants pictures of the real happiness smile, those emotions caught – they caught the positive emotions, and they themselves
had a positive mood change. But when they looked at the face
with the fake happiness smile, they caught nothing. In other words, if we show up to events
that we are ambivalent about, interact with people
that we don’t really like, we become less memorable. This doesn’t just happen in person,
it also happens on the phone. So I worked with
a lot of different clients, corporate clients who are
on the phone all the time. They said “Vanessa, I get being happy in person,
but how about on the phone?” So we decided to do an experiment. We had participants in our lab
record different versions of their hello, the first impression on the phone. We wanted to know if people could hear
happiness, sadness or anger. So we had people record
different versions of their hello with happiness, sadness, anger
and while power posing. We wanted to see
if they would sound different. So I wanna play you
two different versions of hello and see if you can guess
which one is the happy hello. Are you ready? Alright. Same person. Here is a). (Sound recording) Hello. Here is b). (Sound recording) Hello. How many people
think a) is the happy hello? How many think b) is the happy hello? Very good. We can hear this difference. We can hear this microexpression. Now, I thought this was interesting,
but I wanted to take it a step further. So we devised a second part
of our experiment where we had participants in our lab
listen to these recordings and rate that person on likeability. We wanted to see if the happiness microexpressions
or the anger microexpressions or the power posing expression did better. Here’s what happened. After we asked people, “I do like this person a lot,” “I like this person a little,”
or “I do not like this person,” we found that the
happiness microexpressions across all trials for both men and women, they became more likeable. Whereas the same persons who baited
the anger or sadness microexpression were less likeable. This is the happy side effect
of having your confidence be contagious. Not only do you infect someone else
with that happiness, you also become more likeable. We talked about non verbal, and I have to talk about
what comes after the hello. How do we infect confidence verbally? So in this study
we did in Portland, Oregon, we took 500 Speed-Networkers, and we asked each
of these Speed-Networkers to go through a
conversation starter round – eight of these rounds. So we assigned each participant a conversation starter
to have with a stranger. Then we set up cameras
in all corners of the room, and we analyzed each
of these speed rounds for patterns. We were looking
for body language patterns: leans, nods, laughs,
smiles, confidence. We were also looking
for volume differences. In a really good conversation,
usually the volume goes up. In a really awkward bad conversation, there are lots of silences,
the volume goes down. And we also asked each of the participants
to rate the conversation starters. We wanted to know which ones produced
the highest quality of conversation. What we found was that
the conversation starters that worked centered on this little chemical
called dopamine. So dopamine is the neurotransmitter
that we produce when we feel pleasure or when we get a reward. And I noticed that most of our chit-chat that we have at parties
or networking events is the same. It sounds like this. “So, what do you do?” “Where are you from?” “Live around here? Huh?” “Well, I am going to go get
some more wine. It was great talking to you.” Those conversations happened
over and over again. It was almost as if
they were socially scripted. My brain was on autopilot. What we found was is that the worst ranked
conversation starters, the ones that got the lowest ratings, the ones that produced the lowest volume, the ones that got the most leans away,
worst head nods, worst microexpressions, those were the ones that we use the most. “What do you do?”
“How are you?” “Where are you from?” from a physiological perspective,
have no effect. No pleasure. So what we tried was to find
conversation starters that could spark or create
some kind of excitement. Can you verbally trigger dopamine? We found that the brain
is really interesting. If you ask somebody a question,
it tends to look for hits and not misses. What I mean by this
is if you ask someone “Been busy lately?” their brain immediately looks
for all the hits of “been busy.” They think about negative things
that have happened – the stress, the busyness,
all the bad things in their life. Whereas if you ask someone,
“Working on any exciting recently?” their brain immediately begins to look
for all the hits of “excitement.” It starts to think about
the good and happy things, all the excitement
that’s going on in their own life. And that does two things. One, it creates pleasure for them. You are literally asking them to borrow excitement
from other places in their life and bring it to the situation
that you’re in. And the other thing that it does
is it makes you more memorable. Dr. John Medina found that dopamine, when it’s triggered
in a verbal conversation, makes a mental post-it note. In other words, when you ask someone else
to think of what’s exciting in their life, the happy side effect
is that you become more memorable. So here’s my big challenge for today. Instead of using the typical “What do you do?” “How are you?” and “Where are you from?” let’s banish those
conversation starters forever, and let’s try ones that ask the brain
to look for hits of excitement. Try “Working on anything
exciting these days?” “Have any vacations coming up?” “Anything good happen today?” I think this is the greatest gift
we can give our fellow human beings. We are asking them to flip into optimism. We are triggering dopamine and excitement
and getting them off autopilot. The last way that we
are contagious is emotionally. So, this study is one of my favorites. In this experiment, they asked
students to sing the song “Don’t Stop Believing” into an accuracy software. Now, this a very nerve-racking experiment. They are rated on vocal tone, words, and they are given no preparation. But they did three different trials
of this experiment. First, they had them
just walk into the room and sing into an accuracy software. The second group got into the room
and had to say out loud, “I’m nervous.” And the last group had to walk
into the room and say, “I’m excited.” They found with this simple reframe the nervous group got 53% accuracy, the control group got 69%, but the “I’m excited” group
got 80% accuracy. Why? Anxiety and excitement
are very similar emotions. The only difference is mindset. So my challenge for you today is to think about
how you want to infect people. When you want harness incitement
or trigger excitement: ask dopamine-worthy conversation starters; use more hand gestures; make authentic smiles; and never pick up the phone in a bad mood. (Laughter) And the last thing I want to do
is I want to end on a note of excitement. I want to make you really infectious. So what we are going to do
to end this talk is on the count of three,
with all the energy you can muster, I want you to yell out “I’m excited.” Are you ready? One, two, three! “I’m excited.” You rocked it. (Applause)



  • 2010james1957 Blankenship

    Wow. Vanessa, I loved your part. You gave me something I needed. Simple little hints to amplify every situation. Thanks.

  • Анастасия Исаченко

    It is good))

  • Larrythebassman


  • James Roberts

    Amazing transformation from the school picture!

  • Aaron Gavronsky

    VVE is like… a really productive sociopath.

  • Tony Osei

    One of the BEST TED Talks ever.

  • Phuong Minh

    she killed it

  • Kevin Olson

    What would life be like now if slaves back in the day just had been optimistic? Nobody would have felt empathy for them and they would still be slaves; that's what. The reason that we (pessimists) do not want to flip from pessimism to optimism is that if there were no pessimists we, the human race would do anything we were told to do. There would be no problems with becoming slaves with no free will; it is easier than thinking of a solution. Which requires you to be pessimistic and realize there is a problem…

  • Alaa Am

    I learn smthg today, and for that That I Thank you!!

  • M B

    I was annoyed by the cameraman concentrating on taking shots of her back. Not professional.

  • James Roberts

    INCREDIBLE transformation from her younger self. Amazingly beautiful woman from head to toe. Sadly, as smart and engaging as she is, like almost all TED talks;the subject itself is vapid.

  • Money Moves

    She’s very contagious from back!!🤤

  • Stephanie Sferro


  • Evil DelBono

    Yelling “I’m excited” even alone in a 10×12 shed on a rainy, cold day makes you smile and laugh. ❤️🥰

  • SF Yuppies

    instead of:
    1. what do you do?
    2. where are you from?
    3. how are you?

    1. working on anything exciting these days?
    2. have any vacations coming up?
    3. anything good happen today.

    this is gold.

  • izzy mm

    thanks for this talk

  • Kristy Quinn

    Powerful beyond belief.

  • Shawn J

    I always feel like Someone is watching me! LOL (Analyzing)
    Here goes privacy!

  • Hinaru Uchiha Uzumaki

    18:16 Isn't this a famous study? Where they looked at airplanes or something and people joined along. The more the confederates staring at the sky, the passerby was more inclined to look up too and eventually the results plateaued and people stopped looking up, etc idkkk

  • cahnrad

    This talk was as great as her shape

  • Kelvin Torres

    6:49 that's got to be the national 9/11 pose we don't play that no more of course people gonna look 😂

  • YVRCasting

    I'm shocked at the content really. Vanessa has so many short videos with so much more engaging content ✔

  • Bob Bobb

    Why women can drain a man of his will to live

  • Dr Segsi

    1:20 TITS

  • Jean Elysée

    0:18 Wow, from a 1 to a solid and undisputed 9.5 👏👏

  • flintlights

    I love her energy! It is contagious! That’s what make this talk more exciting to watch!

  • Mike Donovan

    Wow. Exceptional execution & insight.

  • kalyan 2494

    Fell in love with you u are captivating

  • jay kubesch

    I loved this ted talk ♡ thank you!

  • Renate Paul

    Vanessa, you are a bummer! Sooooo sweet and really contagious!!!!!


    Sooo fine

  • Corey Alexander

    She's so prescious

  • creativemike

    Good Ted talks never get old. 🙂

  • Eshdh Hdhd

    She's gorgeous. What is her IG?

  • Voice of Validity

    My brain is always attracted to women named Vanessa for some reason, every single one I've met, there's something about them.


  • The Healthy Plumber

    This is gold. Thank you !!!

  • Keith Keenan

    Take it. Take the money….nah.

  • Sergey Sergeev

    Какая задница мощная у дамы.

  • Cee Cee

    Caveman? Seriously

  • jorge guzman

    I knew my boss could smell my fear!

  • Venkata Rama Krishna P

    Why is this only a TEDx talk?

  • Wendy Drummond

    Thanks that is awesome and will help me communicate better with others

  • Missionjapan_DBAW

    She is wrong about the cave man days. Blacks/aisans/latino are not from caves…white people are lol. And most people look at the eyes of the person not the hands.

  • Aleena khan

    My concern is how do you reply to these "dead questions" that people ask? These people are least interested in listening to the answers.
    For example if someone asks you 1. what do you do? 2. where are you from? 3. how are you?
    How do you give an interesting answer that makes you memorable?

  • Amada Simula

    You did a great job! I will take notes from you and ALL your well-orchestrated hand gestures. Thank you!

  • Nina Nickel

    I’ve been told you can hear my smile on the phone. I was asked one time if my happiness was real and I said yes!

  • Vraj Shah

    Par-ti-ci-pants… I loved the talk tho

  • Bingo Long

    This is the reason we are all trending towards the lowest common denominator.

  • Rose Gedoria

    Awesome! I learned a lot! 👏👏👏

  • Mr. Nisse

    Sorry Vanessa, I'm not going to lie…when I first saw you, I was definitely NOT looking at your hands. 🙂

  • Kateřina Polášková

    Great Speech! I often struggle with talking to people I don’t know that much and this is Something I can actually use in my
    Life! Thank you! 💓

  • MyessYallyah Americus

    im planning on cutting off all googles and youtube money and send them all to labor camps to teach them how to work for the first time ever

  • MyessYallyah Americus

    i haye my life because of whats been done to me by the biggest cowards in the world who have done nothing but abuse me my entire life. envious because i worked harder and was and am more successful then them

  • S. Sequoia Stafford

    Love, big time love for my author incubator. So Grateful!

  • Ordinary Engineering student

    This video demands more likes and views !

  • Michelle Martinez


  • Jc Lions

    She is beautiful and funny.

  • Kurt E. Clothier

    "Looking at nothing" was great. A friend of mine and I did something similar at a concert festival once. We were behind where people were seated, near some merch tables and fencing. We just stood back there, holding a couple of CDs (but not in line for anything), and people started lining up behind us. Eventually, we had a decent line, even heard a few people questioning each other and all of the subsequent theories on who was coming out to sign stuff. After about 15 minutes, we just left the "line" but a lot of people stayed there for quite a while. Public social experiments are fantastic.

  • Life Learner

    You’re unquantifiable research Is not Proven. there are more studies that show that people do you look at eyes-If you could not see a persons eyes it’s much worse than if you could not see their hands

  • Sophia Zhao

    i thought b was happier ô_ó

  • D S

    Did the study look into how much Italian heritage those wiyhbthe gand gestures had?🤣

  • Alan Cox

    What an amazing lady. She sure did rock it. I didn't know that anxiety and excitement are similar. This makes sense of you are what you think. Thank you Vanessa.

  • Shanon Kulkin

    I always do these things! I Never walk up to someone and ask them what the do. So Boeing! Walk up to someone smile huge! And ask them to tell ya something great! Just sayin….

  • E L E V A T E

    That's why I seem to become shy and introverted when I talk to people who are more shy, and how I'm more outgoing when I'm with people who are outgoing. Interesting!

  • doubtazul

    Too long! So much for research 😒

  • Ronnie Acosta

    wow! i learned so much! thanks!!

  • Oh yeah

    So true. I didn't like the hands behind her uncomfortable true

  • 1Z

    Yoshikage kira has entered the chat

  • Collen Robert

    She so damn beautiful !!!!

  • Ian Wright


  • Ian Wright

    How perfect is sHe!

  • Fitness Alliance International

    That's really interesting but I only listen to Ted talks while I'm doing other things

  • Jayesh Salankar

    Brain and beauty combo

  • Nero II Bautista

    omg i love this! haha

  • Abelito Feliciano

    Wow that’s awesome 😂

  • VincentAntoine

    I find to many hand gestures to be fake, I want them to just start vogueing, especially men , hand gestures on men seems so fake and distracting

  • rodrigomagnvs

    This video is the perfect blueprint to spawn more screaming YouTubers and advance their "excitement was".

  • Abdul Rahim

    8:42 i was in toilet 😔

  • Miss Entrepreneur

    One of the best TED talks I've seen! Perfect!

  • Ikram Benzoubara

    Amazing. Best ted talk ever. 😃

  • Shaleil Young

    Vanessa is always on point!

  • Tim Schneider

    Some other good conversations starters:

    What do you do for fun?
    Whats your favorite thing about ____? (city or state or country they live)
    Do anything fun or exciting this weekend?

  • dead4luz

    she forgot mentioning her asmr abilities

  • Shadowfox

    You forgot one the “try-hard” this player strives to dominate at everything in red dead online, they utilize good guns like (Lancaster/bolt action) ,ability load-outs, clothes, horses and are easily mistaken for griefers. The only difference between these players and griefers is that they will utterly wreck you with their explosives, dynamite arrows, and incendiary rounds if you dare mess with them or their friends in any way. They will chase you down in free roam if you attempt to grief them and kill you over and over until you leave the game. These people are generally perceived as very hot-headed and arrogant by others which makes it difficult to stay friends with them for long periods of time due to their over competitive natures. These players are usually only seen during showdowns and range from the 80-100 and up range. They throughly enjoy destroying anyone that they see as a potential rival and are always looking for another fight instead of just enjoying the content and being with friends.

  • Grace Park

    I love her speaking. It is very helpful .

  • Roex PMagtajas

    I watch ted talks based on the topic so 🤷🏻‍♀️

  • Ta Dum ! Tss !

    She's hot

  • gamelover420

    I work in an environment where there is a reason for me to be depressed and sad and I can’t control my emotions. I don’t want to leave my job. I can’t financially. How do I change that? I can kind of feel that my sadness have been noticed by others. From the past 3 weeks, entire work environment has now become so dull.

  • david knudson

    Hence, why some people are better leaders than others, among many other reasons of course.

  • Jamie Shannon

    Wow, super interesting talk, i am going to listen twice and make sure i remember.

  • Spencer Gillett

    Is he gonna jump??

  • Rebekah H

    I liked thisss

  • j blah

    "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerfull beyond measure. Its our light not our darkness that most frighten us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people wont feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. Its not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
    And as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
    As we are liberated from our own fears our presence automatically liberates others."-

    Nelson Mandela

  • Van Towers

    First thing I notice was how thicc she is. I want to clap that.

  • Jason Shoraka

    Hormonal sent skydivers Admiral sent to their spandex, the people sitting at the desk for the study smell the hormonal scent of that that's why they felt the same similar because like cats and dogs and other animals we still sent since they smell the fear or happiness or contentment through hormonal sense and we don't realize it on a conscious level slightly unconscious level but mostly not

  • Jason Shoraka

    Very interesting video, thank you,

  • Jason Shoraka

    It's so intriguing to read the other comments of these people that have no idea what you're talking about, because so many people are so $tup!d & simple-minded!

  • Jason Shoraka

    Sense of smell, even at a subconscious level plays a big part in communication, probably more or just the same as body language,!

  • Aryan Kapil

    Her mimicry….😀😀😀😀😀😀🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🙄🙄 Was awsum


    Tooo much beautiful and my ideal personality, u vanissa.

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