We might not like rude people, but we respect them. That’s one unsettling conclusion that could be drawn from a new study by a team of researchers from the University of Amsterdam, who asked people to give their impressions of others who were ill-behaved.The researchers conducted four experiments. In two of them, half the participants were asked to read a scenario in which someone demonstrated rudeness, either by taking coffee grounds from someone else’s coffee can or by brushing aside concerns about potentially faulty bookkeeping. The other half read similar scenarios where no one filched coffee and bookkeeping rules were taken more seriously.
The third experiment was similar, except that this time participants watched a video of a man in a café. In half the scenarios, the man was rude to the waiter, put his feet on an adjacent chair and flicked his cigarette ashes on the sidewalk; in others, he was polite and used only one chair and an ashtray.
The fourth experiment was conducted in-person, with an actor who either put his feet on the table (considered a bigger offence in Europe than in the U.S.) or who was more polite.
- In all cases, the participants thought the rude people were more powerful, and rated them more highly on characteristics such as “decisive,” “strong,” “powerful,” “in control,” and “leader-like.”
- Poor manners were associated with a tendency toward anger. In the third study, after watching the video, participants were told that the man at the café was given the wrong order. Participants thought the rude man was more likely to get angry about the wrong order, and more likely to ask the waiter to fix it, than the better-mannered man.
The study suggests that we expect our leaders, or other people in positions of power, to be poorly-behaved. Do you think that’s true? And do you think Europeans, who were the participants in this study, have different perceptions of rudeness than North Americans?
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