60-Second Mind

Rude People Can Be Perceived as Powerful

Powerful people often bend the rules, so if someone is a rule-breaker could they be perceived as powerful? Christie Nicholson reports

Powerful people often bend the rules. But here’s a twist: If someone breaks rules, are they then perceived as powerful?

Scientists had 40 volunteers read various scenarios. One was about a person who, without asking, helped himself to a cup of coffee from another person’s pot. In another, a bookkeeper consciously ignored a financial error. The subjects also read about scrupulous coffee drinkers and bookkeepers. The subjects were then surveyed, and they rated the rule-breakers as being more in-control and leaderlike than the conscientious types. The research is in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

In another test, being publicly rude also seemed to engender a perceived sense of power. A hundred twenty-six subjects watched one of two videos. One of a man sitting in a sidewalk café and acting courteously, the other of the same man stretching his legs out on a chair next to him, tossing his cigarette ashes wherever, and barking orders at the cafe staff. Subjects thought the crude man was more likely to be a decision-maker and get his way than the same man behaving himself.

So next time you think someone is important, remember: They may simply be a jerk.

—Christie Nicholson

Share this Article:


You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

Email this Article