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See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 23, Issue 1

I Really Like You

Learning to like somebody may be as easy as saying the words



Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

Saying you are fond of someone might make you actually like that person, according to a study in the October 2011 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes. Psychologists showed 39 students a series of photographs of people who had been previously judged as neither pleasant nor unpleasant and instructed them to say the word “likable” or “unlikable” while viewing each one. Later, the students saw the pictures again in a random order and expressed how they felt about every person. They said they liked people 17 percent more often when they had previously been told to say “likable” compared with when they had said “unlikable.” The study used a method that has been shown to circumvent any conscious memories of which image went with which label; the subjects truly seemed to feel more warmly toward those they called likable. The results are something to consider the next time you politely say you like your boring dinner date or noisy office mate.

This article was published in print as "I Really Like You."

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