Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire

Lillian Searson 

BSc [Hons] Applied Psychology

Lillian Searson is a graduate of the Applied Psychology class of 2021. Her studies focused on the intersection between psychology and technology with an emphasis on online behaviours and the psychological phonemena which drive them. Throughout her four years in IADT, Lillian served as a Class Representative, a First Year Matters Student Ambassador and founded the IADT Mental Health Society.

Project Description

In an era of visual storytelling, to what extent do nonverbal cues, such as wide eye movements, gesticulation and posture affect how much the viewer is drawn to the storyteller and the content of the story?

Project Objectives

My major research project focused on social attraction or ‘likeability’. Nonverbal cues are associated with high extraversion which is generally deemed a socially attractive trait. I was curious to find out if there would be a significant difference in social attraction between two TikTok videos as well as the extraversion level of the viewer. TikTok A features a male telling a story with a multitude of wide eye movements, expansive postures and gesticulations. TikTok B features the same male with the same background, distance from the camera and script. However, TikTok ‘B’ features attenuated cues. The male stands with a closed posture, his hands in his pockets, making minimal eye contact with the camera.

Project Outcomes

This study was carried out in order to investigate whether a TikTok user embellishing their story with multiple non-verbal cues might be deemed more socially attractive than a user’s story with attenuated non-verbal cues. Participants were grouped by their level of extraversion to determine if individuals with different levels of this personality trait enjoy this communication more. Results indicated that people who are highly extraverted had more social attraction for the TikTok video which displayed high extraversion cues. There was no significant difference for other groups, indicating online storytellers may be deemed as more socially attractive overall to all groups with more neutral displays of non-verbal cues.

Thesis Title

#RelatableContent: The relationship between social attraction and extraversion in TikTok videos