Being exposed to someone who is rude can be unsettling, especially when it is completely unprovoked. New research shows how rudeness also affects your ability to think clearly.
When was the last time someone was unnecessarily rude to you? Perhaps you were happily minding your own business while reaching for an item on a high shelf at the drugstore. Unaware of the person standing behind you, you happened to step back and bumped into their foot. It was an innocent mistake, so you couldn’t understand why this person tapped you on the shoulder and yelled at you for being so clumsy. If you were in their place, you know you wouldn’t react with such venomous rage. Unsettled by the whole episode, you find that you can’t even concentrate on what else you were supposed to pick up at the store and leave empty-handed.
Rudeness and the Ability to Concentrate
As it turns out, the mental effects of exposure to rudeness have actually been studied in the laboratory. According to Carnegie Mellon University’s Binyamin Cooper and colleagues (2022), rudeness constitutes a “low intensity negative behavior that violates norms of civility” that can actually interfere with a person’s ability to get work done (p. 481). In the extreme, rudeness can even have life-or-death consequences. Previous research shows that medical personnel exposed to rudeness not only “perform at suboptimal levels” but also could actually make poor decisions with lethal consequences.
What might account for the detrimental effects of rudeness on someone’s mental capacity? Reflecting on the shopping example, you might be able to resonate with the idea that when you’re the target of an unprovoked attack, you simply cannot think straight.
The type of mental draining that Cooper and his colleagues believe has the most negative impact on an individual relates to the process of “anchoring.” This is a mental bias that occurs when people fixate on one idea to the exclusion of other possibilities. In the words of the authors, it “appears to pose a significant risk to the quality of individual judgment” (p. 482).
In their theoretical model, rudeness has this impact on your ability to think because it engenders negative arousal (sadness, anger). This pathway is further influenced by a loss of the ability to engage in perspective-taking, where you think about a situation from someone else’s point of view. You also become unable to lay out the ordinary set of possible solutions to the problems that face you. It’s as if you zero in on one idea, fixate on that, and become unable to see any alternatives. The problem occurs when that first thought is actually wrong.
Putting Rudeness to the Test
As indicated in the title of the study, “Trapped by a First Hypothesis,” the first step in testing their theoretical model required that the research team trap their participants by exposing them to rudeness and then seeing how their thought processes evolved as a result. Across a series of three studies, as well as a pilot, a combination of medical students and online participants imagined themselves in simulated situations that, in the rudeness condition, involved someone speaking to them in a highly inappropriate manner.
For example, in one study, participants were to imagine themselves as bookstore employees when a customer complained about the advertised price of a book being too high. In the rude condition, the customer said: “What kind of bookstore is this? Are you all a bunch of idiots who work here or something? There’s a sign there saying all the books in that area are SEVEN DOLLARS. It’s not that complicated—you put the price on a book, and that’s what it costs. It doesn’t take a genius to do that, but maybe that’s asking too much from someone who works at a bookstore. Forget it; I don’t want it.”
To assess the impact of rudeness on anchoring, the researchers used several variants of a task in which participants could be led to settle on an incorrect answer without considering others. In one of these, participants answered whether Mount Everest’s height is greater or less than 45,000 feet (anchoring) and then, in the second question, simply guessed what they thought the mountain’s height is. Anchoring would be shown by the extent to which the freely given answer was closer to the anchor than the actual height (which is 29,029 feet).
To examine whether the effect of rudeness could be mitigated, the research team investigated the effects of various manipulations such as giving participants a chance to engage in perspective-taking and an exercise that challenged them to think in more depth about the problem.
In this well-controlled and imaginative study, the authors were able to tease apart the various components of their overall model. The findings were consistent with the model’s predictions and showed that although exposure to rudeness engendered such negative emotions as anger, hostility, and disgust, the effect of this negative arousal on anchoring could be offset by simple interventions. These “rays of hope” (p. 495) can therefore provide an antidote to the effect of rudeness on an individual’s ability to think rationally.
Offsetting Rudeness in Your Own Life
With these findings in mind, you may now have a better idea of what it is about being subjected to rudeness that can be so deleterious to your mental ability. The raw emotions that become triggered narrow your focus and make it difficult for you to think of anything else other than the horribleness of the situation.
You don’t have to remain trapped in those negative emotions, however. You may not feel like thinking nice things (perspective-taking) about the person who wronged you, at least not in the heat of the situation. However, you can take advantage of information elaboration by forcing yourself to stick to the task at hand and figure out various ways to tackle it. In other words, as you roam about that drugstore boiling over with anger at the person who reacted so harshly to you, pull out the list you came in there with or just stop and think about all the items you could possibly need by looking up and down each aisle.
These situations can also help you develop your own resistance to becoming a rude person yourself. Knowing how harmful this behavior can be, it might be helpful for you to consider the value of civility the next time you’re tempted to lash out at a stranger.
To sum up, positive relationships benefit interpersonal civility as well as mental agility. Rudeness is unpleasant to encounter in your daily life, but it doesn’t have to rule your rationality.
https://symia.ir/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/rudness.jpg7591200Roshanak Taghvaieehttp://symia.ir/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/symia_logo.pngRoshanak Taghvaiee2023-04-11 19:05:272023-04-11 19:05:33How Rudeness Can Negatively Affect Your Mind