The weird science behind distrusting super cheerful people
Every now and then, I’ll meet someone who’s just so relentlessly cheerful that it sets my grouchy self on edge. These extra smiley folks are oftentimes well-meaning, but the feeling doesn’t translate. And now, science deals naturally cheerful people another blow.
A new study confirms that when confronted with incredibly cheerful people, other folks are likely to cheat them.
A study in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (whew) conducted six experiments measuring how people perceived other peoples’ cheerful demeanors. Then, researchers examined how the test group interacted with the cheerful group. In their study, the real reason people respond so warily to unfiltered sunshine cheerfulness has nothing to do with being total killjoys. Rather, they read that cheerfulness as ignorance or even stupidity — and then take advantage of those very same people.
It’s a weird tightrope of feeling: You don’t mean to be annoyed at someone just because they’re inexplicably cheerful. And as someone who’s spent time in the service industry, sometimes the cheerfulness is a façade anyway. But it’s worth examining why we’re biased in this way, and how this bias plays out not just in a study but also in subtle ways in real life. Leslie Knope became a pop culture icon almost in spite of her cheerful demeanor; perhaps the answer lies in an all-seasons binge of Parks and Rec. (As though anyone needs another reason to do that.)