A small mishap or blunder can make you more likable, research finds.
In the psychology study, people spilled a cup of coffee over themselves, after which people rated them as more attractive.
The blunder made people appear more human and approachable.
The trick works well when other people already see you as competent.
The authors explain that talented people are sometimes disliked by others:
“…group members who are considered the most able are not necessarily the best liked.
It has also been demonstrated that people who initiate the most ideas and are acknowledged as the best “idea” men [or women] by other members of their group are usually not the best liked group members.[…]
A great deal of ability, in and of itself, might make the stimulus person seem “too good,” unapproachable, distant, non-human.”
Called the ‘pratfall effect’ by psychologists, it relies on the blunderer already being seen as confident.
In contrast, the incompetent blunderer is seen as less attractive after a pratfall.
So, just knocking things over, spilling drinks and slipping on bananas all day won’t do the trick!
The study’s authors write:
“Taken as a whole, these data support the contention that a blunder on the part of a superior person removes the onus of being “too good”; it increases his approachability and makes him seem less austere, more human-while a blunder on the part of a mediocre person makes him seem that much more mediocre.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Psychonomic Science (Aronson et al., 1966).