Table of Contents

Table of Contents
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Charmed, I'm sure...

The Pratfall Effect:

Being a leader takes character, but also it take wisdom. Be shrewd as a serpent and innocent as a dove. Leaders know the power of winning the favor of key's good to play the game on purpose (sometimes) especially when you know you have produce great things for those who have entrust you.....

Sometimes, it helps to make a blunder - to win affection, but, first; please, make sure you showed up (gained the reputation of competence), otherwise, people will just call you a klutz.....

The pratfall effect was discovered in the field of Social Psychology.

Dr. Peter Salovey:

This is "competence." Think about other people in your environment. Think about people who are competent. Generally--And think about people who are incompetent. Generally, we are more attracted to people who seem competent to us. Now, that isn't very interesting. And it turns out that's not really the effect. Yes, we're more attracted to people who are competent than people who we think are incompetent but people who are super competent, people who seem competent on all dimensions, they're kind of threatening to us. They don't make us feel so good about ourselves. Right? They make us feel a bit diminished by comparison. So, what we really like--The kind of person we're really attracted to is the competent individual who occasionally blunders. And this is called the Pratfall Effect, that our liking for the competent person grows when they make a mistake, when they do something embarrassing, when they have a failure experience. Okay?

You can see this with public figures. Public figures who are viewed as competent but who pratfall, who make a mistake, sometimes they are even more popular after the mistake. Okay? I think of Bill Clinton when he was President. His popularity at the end of his term, despite what everyone would agree, whether you like Bill Clinton or not, was a big mistake with Monica Lewinsky, his popularity didn't suffer very much. A lot of people in the media would describe him, "Well, he's just--It just shows he's human." He makes mistakes like the rest of us, even though that was a pretty big mistake. Right? And you could see this even with smaller pratfalls. Sometimes public figures are liked even more after their pratfall.

Now, the classic experiment, the classic pratfall experiment, is just a beautiful one to describe. It's a work of art. So, let me tell you a little bit about it. You're in this experiment. You're brought to the lab and you're listening to a tape recording of interviews with people who are described as possible representatives from your college to appear on a quiz show. The quiz show is called "College Bowl," which I don't think is on anymore but was on when I was in college. And you're listening to interviews with possible contestants from Yale who are going to be on "College Bowl." You have to decide how much--What you're told is you have to decide who should be chosen to be on "College Bowl." And you listen to these interviews. Now what's interesting is there's two types of people, the nearly perfect person and the mediocre person. The nearly perfect person answered 92% of the questions correctly, admitted modestly to being a member of the campus honor society, was the editor of the yearbook, and ran varsity track. That's the nearly perfect person. The mediocre person answers only 30% of the questions correctly, admits that he has only average grades, he worked on the yearbook as a proofreader, and he tried out for the track team but didn't make it. So, you see, they're keeping a lot of the elements consistent but in one case he's kind of an average performer and in the other case nearly perfect.

Now, which of these two people do you find more attractive in listening to the tape? So, when they ask you questions about which person should be on the quiz show, people say the more competent person. But they also ask questions like, "How attractive do you find this person?" Now, you're only listening to an audiotape. How attractive do you find this person? And the results are pretty obvious. The competent person is rated as much more attractive, considerably more attractive, than the mediocre person. Okay? If this were the end of the story though, it would be a kind of boring story and it's not the end of the story.

Now, what happens is half of the participants in the experiment who have listened to each of these tapes--You only get to listen to one tape. Half of them are assigned to the blunder condition. And what happens in the blunder condition is the tape continues and what you hear is the clattering of dishes, a person saying--the person saying, "Oh, my goodness. I've spilled coffee all over my new suit." Okay? That's the blunder. That's the pratfall. Now you're asked, "Who do you find more attractive?" And look what happens. Your rating of the attractiveness of the competent person grows even higher. The competent person who blunders, this is the person that I love. Unfortunately, the mediocre person who blunders, you now think is even more mediocre. Right? This is the sad irony in these experiments. The effect works both ways so the mediocre become even more lowered in your esteem, in your regard.

Now, I'll tell you a little personal story about my coming to Yale that relates to this experiment. This is one of the most famous experiments in the history of social psychology. I wouldn't quite put it up there. You'll hear maybe later about, or maybe you've already about Milgram and maybe Asch conformity and maybe Robber's Cave. Those are even better known than this, but this is right up there. This is a top five experiment. What--So--And it was done by Elliot Aronson who has retired now, but for many years taught at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The name is not one that you need to know.

In any case, I came to Yale in 1981 as a graduate student and I was looking for an adviser and I was kind of interviewing with a faculty member at Yale at the time named Judy Rodin. Some of you may know that name because she went on later to become the President of the University of Pennsylvania and now is the President of the Rockefeller Foundation. But I was interviewing with her and set up a meeting. And what I was trying to persuade her in this meeting was to take me on as one of her students, to let--to be my adviser. And it's about my third or fourth week of graduate school and I'm pretty nervous about this. And she could be intimidating to a first-year graduate student.

And I remember I was holding this mug of coffee and I was pleading with her, trying to convince her to take me on as her student, and I was saying, "Judy, I'll get a lot done. I'll work really hard. I can analyze data. I can write." And I'm talking about myself and I'm swinging--I'm using my hands as I talk. I'm swinging this cup of coffee around. And fairly soon into the conversation I demonstrated some principle that you've probably learned in your physics class having to do with an object at rest remaining at rest unless acted upon by a force. Well, the object at rest was the coffee in the cup and when I pulled the coffee cup out from under the coffee it landed right on her desk and began--I watched in slow motion as this wave of coffee just moved from my side of the desk to her side of the desk.

She jumped up and jumped back and started moving papers around and really was giving me this look like "Why don't you just leave?" So, I was trying to save the moment as best as I could, and I looked at her and I said, "Judy, do you remember that old experiment that Elliot Aronson did on attractiveness?" She looked at me kind of out of the corner of her eye and I said, "Well, that was my blunder. Now you're going to like me even more." And she just shook her head and she said, "Peter, Peter, Peter. You know that effect only works if I think you're competent first."Anyway, that was my introduction to Yale, graduate school at Yale.

Only blunder if you're competent first and it will make you more attractive. That is the Pratfall Effect.