Which Co-Worker is Most Likely to Beat You Up?
February 23, 2012 1 Comment
Tommy works in the mail room. You’re always very courteous when he comes by, but it’s clear he has greater aspirations. You sense his frustration with his low status and inability to prove his competence is causing something dark to build inside of him.
Kevin is the Senior VP of the department. He’s powerful, confident, and in control. However, you know research shows that power can lead to aggressive tendencies by increasing risk taking and the perception that one can do “whatever they want.”
So, who should you be more afraid of? According to a new paper, the answer is…the guy who’s a winner.
In Studies 1 and 2, participants were told that they did worse or better than an ostensible partner on a first task. Then they aggressed against this partner on a second task using loud, painful noise blasts. Results showed that participants aggressed more against someone they outperformed (the loser) than against someone who outperformed them (the winner).
A few quickie implications that jump to mind:
1.The “stand up to bullies” mantra taught by sitcoms from the 80’s may actually hold water. Show the bully he’s not truly “outperforming you,” and his aggressiveness may decrease.
2. American foreign policy over the last 97 years is finally explained. “We’re better than you? Great! We’ll kick your ass!”
3. Those in power are a greater threat to peace than those they rule over.
4. Maybe all those people we locked up for non-violent drug crimes (who are “losers” not “winners”) aren’t as big a threat to society as some would have you think.
What else can you extrapolate from the study?
Muller, D., Bushman, B., Subra, B., & Ceaux, E. (2012). Are People More Aggressive When They Are Worse Off or Better Off Than Others? Social Psychological and Personality Science DOI: 10.1177/1948550612436984