The Scientific Reason People Won’t Stop Waving on Zoom


In the era of remote work, employees who meet on video can exit the call with just the click of a button, yet most of them perform another gesture first — the “Zoom wave.”

If you’ve noticed yourself following suit when colleagues start waving goodbye to the camera (or even kicking off the ritual yourself), you’re not alone: 55% of workers do it, according to a survey from professional network Fishbowl reported by Bloomberg — and there’s a scientific reason for it.


Related: 8 Zoom Etiquette Rules Everyone Should Follow | Entrepreneur

The “Zoom wave” ties into people’s need for connection, Susan Wagner Cook, associate professor at the University of Iowa’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and director of the school’s Communication, Cognition and Learning Lab, told the outlet.

That explains, in part, the Zoom wave’s gradual post-pandemic decline: 75% of people said they waved goodbye on Zoom in 2021, per a survey from the platform, compared to 57% last year.


Still, the majority of remote employees continue to take part in the ritual, and experts say the scientific phenomenon of “motor resonance,” or the near-automatic impulse to reciprocate someone’s wave, is to thank.

Studies show that “people understand other’s actions and intentions through motor resonance — the perception of another’s actions and sensory experiences produces brain activity very similar to what would be observed if we’d perform the same actions and make the same experiences ourselves,” according to Brandeis University.

Related: Zoom’s New AI Tech Will Help You Skip Video Meetings


And despite the potential awkwardness of the “Zoom wave,” some experts see it as a positive.

“If we weren’t waving at the beginning of Zoom calls, and especially at the end, I would be worried for humankind,” body language expert and author Patti Wood told NBC News in 2021. “I would think, ‘Oh my gosh, are we ever going to recover from this?'”

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