5 Seemingly Insignificant Things That Make People Like You
We all want to be accepted by our fellow humans, but let's face it: Somewhere, someday, you're going to run into someone who just plain doesn't like you. Maybe it's your tendency to threateningly whip out your genitals at the slightest provocation. Maybe it's your perpetual case of gas so noxious that it's as if your colon is a portal to Hell itself. Or, just as likely, it's a totally random quirk that you had no idea was turning people off.
That's right: According to science, if you want people to like you there are a few simple and completely nonsensical steps you can follow:
Just Apologize for Everything, Even if You Had Nothing to Do With It
Have you ever met Apology Guy? You know, the guy who says he's sorry for the horrible traffic you encountered on the way to work (even though you're almost positive he's not a traffic engineer), or for the awful weather we've been having lately (even though you're pretty sure he's not a Norse god). Not one bit of the world's shittiness is his fault, yet he feels an obligatory need to apologize for everything. And maybe we all have a little bit of Apology Guy living inside us -- after all, who hasn't gone on a first date and apologized for the movie being less than good, or for the fact that it rained on your outdoor table at the cafe afterwards?
It makes no sense, so why do people do it? Because society demands that apology, and rewards you for making it. In a Harvard Business School study, researchers sent participants into a crowded train station during a deluge and tasked them with bumming cellphones off of strangers. The participants were instructed to randomly either a) ask the stranger to use their cellphone or b) apologize about the bad weather first, and then ask to use their phone.
When simply asked to hand over their phone, the strangers were about as likely to do so as they were to push the participant into the path of a moving train. After hearing the superfluous apology first, on the other hand, the strangers felt an almost hypnotic urge to toss their phone to a possible identity thief in a crowded train station.
The series of experiments revealed that giving that unnecessary apology increases trust levels -- even though what you're doing is kind of dishonest, since you're getting sympathy for admitting to a mistake you didn't make. It's like humans are so eager to have someone to blame that you can immediately get on everyone's good side by becoming the apologetic public relations person for the universe:
"On behalf of the infinitely complex, uncontrollable cosmic forces that brought you today's weather, I apologize."
"Well, thank you for admitting you were wrong."
Yes, sometimes it's just about taking advantage of how crazy we all are.
Part Your Hair on the Left
OK, we admit this sounds ridiculous. But see if you don't find the evidence convincing:
First, let's do a little experiment. Take a minute to think about some popular, attractive, powerful males. Brad Pitt. Jon Hamm. Or John F. Kennedy, if you really must go the non-Hollywood route. Now, think about their hair. Notice any similarities? Do a Google Images search if you must; we'll wait. No we won't: Chances are they part their hair on the left.
John and Catherine Walter, a brother/sister nuclear physicist/cultural anthropologist team (presumably the unhealthy obsession with men's hair was just a mutual hobby) decided to look into why this was, and their research resulted in the Hair Part Theory. Basically, the theory observes that the way a person's hair is parted has a direct effect on others' assumptions about his or her personality.
Since "most men part their hair on the left, which is supposedly perceived as masculine and assertive," parting their hair on the right in turn causes them to be "regarded as more sensitive, effeminate, and nerdy." On the other hand, women "traditionally part their hair on the right, and if they are left-parters (like Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton) they may be perceived as powerful and masculine." Having your part on the unexpected side, then, "creates vague discomfort in onlookers and may lead to being shunned."
It sounds like a buttload of quackery until you start to tally up all the examples, perhaps the greatest of which being the very pinnacle of masculinity himself, Superman:
Wimpy, nerdy, presumably erectile-dysfunctional Clark Kent has his hair parted on the right. But when he transforms into the muscular, heroic, could literally pound you into dust (with his dick) Superman, his part moves to the left.
And speaking of supermen, Internet darling Ryan Gosling's entire career supports this theory too. As he went from a lovable hunk in The Notebook to a creepy-ass loser in Lars and the Real Girl and back to a panty-dampening legend in Crazy, Stupid, Love, his hair part went from the left, to the right, to the left, respectively.
But that's just Hollywood, right? Chances are some producer once got wind of this theory, and it spread throughout the industry from there. Well, for some real-world examples, look no further than America's presidents. There have been only six right-parting U.S. presidents, and as the study points out, "three of them (James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Warren G. Harding) are deemed by historians to be among our worst, and two others (John Tyler and Chester Arthur) are deemed to be inconsequential." Damn. Let's hear from the Chester A. Arthur defenders in the comment section!
Now, if you don't have a luscious, thick head of hair to put a nice part in, you can always ...
Shave Your Head
Male pattern baldness poses some difficult decisions for the average man. Do you grow one side out and comb it up and over the top? Start from the back and swoosh it all forward? Maybe grow an extra-long mustache, string it up behind your ears and twirl it into a sort of hair-based turban? There's no perfect option, but any option is better than going completely bald, right?
Not according to the University of Pennsylvania, it's not. They performed a series of three studies to compare the perceived personality traits of men with thinning, shaved, or thick hair. In the first, participants were shown a series of photos of similar-looking men -- the main difference being their position on the hairiness scale -- and the Mr. Cleans of the group were consistently rated as more "powerful, influential, and authoritative."
In the second, participants were shown doctored photos of the same men -- one with hair and one bald. The bald version was assumed to be not only more manly but also "nearly an inch taller and 13 percent stronger." In the third experiment, simply reading written descriptions of men was enough for participants to rate the shaved pates highest in terms of "masculinity, strength, dominance, and leadership potential."
And while the amply-haired men were regarded as only moderately less desirable than their shinier counterparts, can you guess who came in dead last in the polls? That's right: those poor, thinning-hair bastards. The studies did find that being fully shaved makes a man look older and less attractive than having hair -- but not nearly as unattractive as having thinning hair. Thinning hair is so hideous, evidently, that the researchers posited that those who wash a bit more of their manliness down the drain each morning "may improve their interpersonal standing by shaving." In case you ever doubted that Lex Luthor knew his shit, doubt no more.
Hide Your Atheism, Even from Other Atheists
Atheism is on the rise. Polls show that belief in the man upstairs (or whatever floor the deity lives on) is on the decline, with the number of these non-God-fearing folk having grown to more than half a billion worldwide. While this seems to be becoming more of a norm in places like Scandinavia, where religious belief has reached an all-time low, if you happen to be an atheist in America we have some potentially bad news for you: There's a damn good chance that people don't like you. Including other atheists.
In general, polls have shown that fewer than half of Americans would even remotely consider voting for an atheist presidential candidate. Oh, and no one wants his son or daughter marrying one of them heathens, either. Researchers led by Will Gervais at the University of British Columbia wondered why, and what they found was that it all came down to the simple fact that people don't trust atheists.
The researchers started out by presenting test subjects with perhaps the most reprehensible type of human being known to exist -- one who would smash into a parked car and then haul ass without leaving a note. Participants were asked to choose the likelihood that said parked car scraper was "a Christian, a Muslim, a rapist, or an atheist," and even though one of those things is clearly not like the others, atheists came in just about even with rapists on the "Yep, Probably a Gigantic Asshole" scale.
Further studies showed that participants would be unwilling to hire an atheist for a job requiring a strong degree of trust, and that they lock their doors at night for the specific purpose of preventing atheists from entering and eating their babies while they sleep.
Now, you'd assume that this is because the subjects are religious themselves and are simply discriminating against those who believe differently than they do. But that's where things really get interesting, because it turns out that even people who identified themselves as non-believers were more likely to trust believers. That's right -- even other atheists had bought into the idea that religious people are more ethical, even though they presumably don't think of themselves as less ethical due to their non-belief.
Once again, humans show a remarkable capability to believe crude stereotypes about their own group. We're telling you, the human mind is a miracle, don't underestimate its mysteries.
Don't Smile (if You're a Guy)
Chances are your mom spent a significant portion of your childhood instilling in you the immense importance of a good smile. School picture day? Smile! You just opened your Christmas present from Grandma and it was socks? Smile! At the ER with bone fragments jutting out of your calf and your kneecap dangling free? Smile! You never know when your future spouse might be watching!
Well the next time mom calls while you're just trying to watch Game of Thrones, jeez, be sure to thank her for making the world hate you. Because despite everything she told you about a smiling face's ability to endear you to potential love interests, studies performed by researchers at the University of British Columbia actually found the opposite to be true -- at least for guys. The researchers found that when presented with pictures of the same man in a variety of poses -- happy, proud, ashamed, and neutral -- female participants consistently rated the happy man as the least attractive. So what did they find most attractive? Men who took on "swaggering or brooding poses."
But as we said before, this applies only to men. On the other side of the gender aisle, it turns out that mom was in fact doing you ladies a favor, because the same study found that the results were the precise opposite for women: Men consistently rated the happy women highest and the proud ones lowest. So, apparently, men prefer their women to look happy, while women prefer their men to look like assholes.
It all goes back to the same Western gender norms as the hair-parting thing -- on an unconscious level, we tend to judge smiling as a "more feminine and less dominant" behavior than, say, horking up a loogie while scratching one's balls, and this long-reinforced prejudice has an almost reflexive effect on the first impressions that others make on us.
It's no more logical or fair than the rest of the list, but hey -- don't shoot the messenger.
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Related Reading: Here's some bad news- your close up profile picture is making people hate you. On the opposite side of things you have stupid shit people act proud of. Like hating popular movies and books. Oh, and while we're puncturing your faith in man, get this: looking at alcohol makes you racist.