Science Of Needing People To Think You’re A Dork


It used to be enough to be hot and talented if you wanted to succeed in the entertainment business, but you also need to be relatable these days. That's why even when turning into actual superheroes, Kumail Nanjiani and Ryan Reynolds need to always remind us that they're still an average Joe (rock hard) six-pack.

It's how adorkable became a thing; also, why the ability to artfully trip on oneself is practically a requirement of every rom-com actress.

This is due to something called the "pratfall effect," which actually makes you like someone more if they show themselves to be incompetent in some way. The concept was identified in the '60s by a psychologist who asked an actor a series of questions, to which they had all the answers, in front of an audience. After answering, the actor had been instructed to spill a cup of coffee all over themselves, thus endearing themselves to the audience despite their otherwise apparent flawlessness.

The effect has been observed in all kinds of contexts (for example, people who admit mistakes in job interviews are better-liked by their interviewers), with a few important caveats: One, the "blunderer" must have been previously perceived to be superior to the audience. If they were already thought to be some average idiot, they get the opposite response, so this won't work for most of us mere mortals. Also, it doesn't work as well on women, who have been shown to prefer people who just don't screw things up. Make of that what you will.

The pratfall effect does not work for Manna on Twitter.

Top image: 20th Century Studios

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