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The Pratfall Effect Or Why Some Zodiac Signs Need To Act The Fool – Part 1

The Pratfall Effect Or Why Some Zodiac Signs Need To Act The Fool – Part 1

Psychology in all its forms is still in some ways a controversial subject that has led to many tests, researches and experiments over the years with an equal number of conflicting results that were left to the interpretation of the researcher. For example; whether the glass is half empty or half full is still anyone’s guess and in my case depends not on whether I’m happy or sad but on whether I’m thirsty enough to want 2 glasses of water rather than one. The psychology of whether you see the glass half empty or half full is now the stuff of legends (plenty of PD and self- help books anyway!) and so is the Pratfall Effect, which I shall cover briefly in this post.

When considering Pratfall effect, the best way to describe it is to study the social psychology definition that explains it as a certain tendency for the attractiveness of an individual to either increase or decrease after a mistake has been made or a blunder has been done by that individual which is directly dependent on the ability of the person to perform well in a general sense or the perceived competence of the individual on the whole.

What Is The Pratfall Effect?

The earliest recorded experiments on the pratfall effect were conducted by Aronson by using a group of male students from the University of Minnesota. They were made to listen to tapes of actors who were given the role of trying to appear for an interview for the college super bowl. The actors were in two categories which included the highly competent one who scored 92 percent rights and the other mediocre one who scored only 30 percent. It was seen that the competent actor reported a good academic career as well as an extracurricular one when compared to the mediocre person. Aronson now introduced traces of blunder in some of the tapes of both the actors. It was observed that the competent actor’s popularity increased due to the blunder while the mediocre actor’s popularity was perceived to be lower than earlier. Later research by Aronson also went on to define the process of attractiveness as a unique combination of liking and respect.

Data suggests that the pratfall effect can be explained by the virtue of the observers relating themselves with the character of the blunderers. When a blunder is committed, the person committing the blunder substitutes the negative emotions that they feel for humor to help get over the guilt and embarrassment. How embarrassed the person feels is likely to depend on how competent they usually are. The same will apply to how guilty they feel. Similarly, the observer relates to the competency level of the blunderer with that of his own and accordingly the amount of negative and hostile feelings that arise are more in the case of a mediocre competency person. Additionally, people like to feel superior and feeling superior to someone who normally outperforms us has its merits! Making the odd mistake, provided that we normally out-perform our peers, humanizes us. The only time that this may not work as a strategy is when our pratfall seriously inconveniences others. If they’ve come to rely on us getting it right all the time or consistently ‘saving the day’ then our blunder is likely to net us a bigger dose of grief than a blunder made by a less reliable/competent individual.


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