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The Pratfall Effect

 

Explanations > Theories > The Pratfall Effect

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

When a person makes a mistake or acts in a clumsy way that might even make people laugh, they are found to be more likeable, including in comparison with people who are more intelligent and clever.

When you make a mistake, you appear more human, more like others and so more likeable. People who are perfect can seem threatening, but people who are imperfect are safe and hence easier to truly like.

Research

Elliot Aronson played recordings of people answering a quiz, but with some you could hear the person knocking over a cup of coffee. People listening to the recordings rated the people who knocked over the coffee as being more likeable.

Example

A participant on a TV game show gets a big round of applause and many cheers for having a go and making a big mess of their task, whilst the person who wins just gets polite applause.

So What?

Using it

If you want to be liked, make mistakes sometimes (or just admit to error), though do be careful to make it in an area which is unimportant and which will not make people think you are incapable in areas where they need your ability.

Defending

When others make mistakes watch for them immediately seeking your sympathy. It may be genuine, but just beware of them using it as a lever.

Sometimes also others will try to appear helpless in order to get you to help them. In this sense, they are playing as 'child' and want you to be the 'nurturing parent'.

See also

Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis, Social Comparison Theory

References

Aronson, Willerman and Floyd (1966)

 

 

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