Shaking bad

written by Terry Robson

Woman with finger to her mouth Credit: iStock

We all make mistakes. Come on, admit it, there have been times or phases of your life when you’ve been less loving, caring, and generous than you would like to have been. Yes, we all aren t always at our best but the problem comes when someone sees you behaving at your “less than best”. It seems that once you have created a bad impression in someone’s mind it is much harder to shift that impressions than it is to breakdown a good impression you might have created in your better moments.

It seems that, once you have created a bad impression in someone’s mind, it is much harder to shift that impressions than it is to breakdown a good impression you might have created in your better moments.

In a new study to test how hard impressions are to shake researchers created a series of scenarios involving characters in situations intended to reflect everyday life. The subjects were actually reading about fictional characters who behaved in either a moral or an immoral way.

As an example, in one scenario a fictional woman named Barbara was described as working in an office. The subjects were told that at times she behaved nicely doing things such as complimenting her workmates. On other occasions Barbara did less savoury things such as spreading gossip. The subjects were then asked to imagine either a positive or a negative change in Barbara’s behaviour.

According to the subjects’ responses it took only a few instances of bad behaviour for the subjects to believe that Barbara’s behaviour had changed for the worse. By contrast, it took many good actions for Barbara’s behaviour to be perceived as a change for the better.

In all, we need more evidence to perceive an improvement in someone’s character than to perceive a deterioration. As the saying goes: mud sticks.

 


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Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the editor-in-chief of WellBeing.