Contagious Attitudes: You Are Imitating and You Don’t Know It

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Imagine you are having a party with you friend, and somebody introduce you two new friends. To your surprise, almost all your other friends show more friendliness to one of them. Will you also like that new friend more than the other?



According to a new Northwestern University study, you are likely to do that.


"This is important because often we are not explicitly thinking about the nonverbal signals that people display, so we could be picking up messages from the nonverbal signals in our environment that we are not even aware of." Said one of the researchers, Allison Skinner.


There is a popular Japanese expression on the internet, "Kuuki ga yomenai," English meaning "unable to read the atmosphere," which means the ones who cannot understand what others attempt to convey through nonverbal signals or verbal implications.


However, although some people may not know how to understand words that are not said out, humans psychologically follow what others do and tend to express a similar attitude.


The researchers showed participants a brief silent video of individuals interacting, and found that they acquired attitudes toward the individuals in the video based on the nonverbal signals that were displayed toward them.



What’s most interesting is that most of the participants did not think they were influenced by the video, and only 30% of them indicated the attitudes shown in the video influenced them.


"This has important implications for how people make sense of the nonverbal messages that they are exposed to in everyday life. These findings suggest that when we see people being less friendly toward one individual relative to another, we often attribute the unfriendliness to the target. Believing that we like them less because they do not seem to be very friendly, when in fact, it is others who were not very friendly to them." Said Skinner.



The study also showed that even in contexts in which people’s attitudes toward others are relatively neutral to begin with, the nonverbal signals that they observe can create new attitudes toward unfamiliar others.

1 Answer

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That's how the school bullying comes out. At first a few kids turn unfriendly to one kid, then the other kids are inflenced and start to ignore or turn against that one kid. Over time, that one kid will be isolated and bullied, with no other kids willing to help.
Exactly, and those who are bullied turn to bullies when they are older.
And some of them may not even realize it. Terrible.
I know a 54 yr old bully whose grands are following lead.
Those who are bullied turn into bullies when they are older?  NO! NO! NO! I was severely bullied as a kid and this behavior from others has continued into the workplace. I know several others, working in different forms of employment, where this is the same case. We mostly find that kids who bully become adults who bully. They are usually in places of importance and continue to "push" their weight around and bully their employees and allow other employees to use the same behavior with no consequenses.
I know a guy who always pushes his employees and the one he pushes most is my friend. He was nearly driven mad and for a long time he was in a deep depressed mood although luckily now he's leaving that company and that arrogant man but I doubt whether he can recover from those psychological tortures ever. I wonder if that guy bullied others in his teen time. I've never met anyone being arrogant and impertinent and offensive like him. Hope I never will.
Thank you for your comment. I truly feel for your friend and unfortunately feel he will never be completely capable of letting go of this kind of past. I have met many people in the workplace just like this guy and can only hope that Karma is true. This kind of person has suffered in some way we will never understand but because he can't work it out in a good way, he will continue to treat people this way. One day his bad Karma will catch up to him. Don't let this be the case with your friend. I guess I'll continue to meet vicious people but I still choose not to be this way in return. It's not worth my energy.
Thank you Heather, can totally relate to your answer. Often those who are bullied growing up tend to also be targets in workplace even when changing jobs. I'm a hard worker who kept to herself , always on time and cooperative but still punished for being less social. Same in  large family setting or churches.
Once you have the fear, it's always there. But I hate that, I hate being scared. So I paid for Taekwondo lessons, I practised and pratised and practised, for years. I become stronger, I finally put him down. When I put him down I know I've walked out of the shadow. I thought the guy would come back for me, he didn't.
Kudos to you for showing him taekwondo help me to center my self and notice my surroundings
i agree Fluffy and cold I myself was always bullied because i was skinny and weak or so they thought now at 50 i am still slender 170 pounds and at 6'1. but after i got tired of being beat up i had enough and started to fight the bullies back won most but not all but i did gain their respect. since then when i saw a bully terrorizing another i could not help myself but to jump in and help the other being bullied always trying to be the protecter which got me into alot of trouble and being suspended from school and even had to goto other schools but it was worth it i told the bullied to stand up to them no matter their size or what you heard of them but remember there are consiquinces to what ever you do but if you believe it's right then stand up for it,reason i joined the military to learn to control myself and be a better person and to stand for what i believe in and i thank our heavenly father he gave me courage and strength to withstand all i have been through. i served during peace time but i still took that oath that will honor till death
I witnessed someone bullied one of my classmates in middle school. She was just stopped by those women one of which really strong n seemed aggressive my classmate got slapped in her face her face turned right and I just stood there watching I was afraid didnt dare to call for help. I cried and begged them to stop I have forgot how this ended but I felt terrible