The Pratfall Effect

The pratfall effect - How making mistakes make you more likable
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Perfection in others intimidates most people. It raises an alarm and insecurity about your own imperfections and flaws. Flaws, mistakes, and imperfections in others make them more likable. This psychological effect is known as “Pratfall Effect”.

What is the Pratfall Effect?

The effect originally defined by Elliot Aronson says that people that commit blunders are more likable than those who don’t commit any blunders or as we say are “perfect” in every sense. But there’s a clause in this. An average person committing blunders does not become likable the way a brilliant person does. This means that if a mistake is committed by the most intelligent person at your office, they will become more likable. However, if the mistake is committed by an average performer, committing the mistake will make no change in their reputation.

Let’s dig in a little deeper and look at the results of an experiment.

Aronson’s Experiment

48 male volunteers were asked to listen to a tape recording of an interview consisting of 4 different scenarios:

  • A competent person answering questions.
  • An average person answering questions.
  • A competent person makes a blunder during the interview.
  • An average person makes a blunder during the interview.

The result was that the volunteers found the competent person making a blunder more attractive than the rest.

Finding “The Pratfall Effect” Examples in Real Life

There’s a fine line between clumsy and cute. A little clumsiness makes you “cute”. People like to know that the so-called perfect person can also make mistakes. Mistakes make people more relate-able. Mistakes make us human. Who doesn’t make mistakes? And a cute guilty smile after making the mistake is all one needs to be more likable.

A celebrity tripping at the Oscars is one excellent example of the Pratfall Effect. Some other examples could be, a great leader having a slip of the tongue while giving a speech.

The same applies to big organizations and companies, as well as political leaders. If these people who most follow and trust blindly admit to making mistakes, then there’s a good chance for a rise in their number of admirers.

Conclusion on the Pratfall Effect

  • Making mistakes does not always make you a fool. Although, this doesn’t mean that you commit blunders on purpose. If you’re “too perfect”, embrace your intimidating self and enjoy your perfection because it’s too rare!
  • Committing a blunder or a being messy like spilling your drink might sound embarrassing, but it can be a conversation starter if you’re confident enough to handle the situation and smile despite your messiness. The smile creates a “child-like” image. But, remember that there’s a very fine line between “childish” and “childlike”.
  • Committing mistakes makes you more approachable and a lot less intimidating, but not if you make mistakes all the time and everywhere you go.
  • The Pratfall Effect comes as a relief to the edgy perfectionist who is too afraid to make mistakes. Well, now you know that a little mistake will only make you more admirable!
  • Having discussed all the advantages of making mistakes, don’t go around making mistakes on purpose in order to get liked. The Pratfall effect only implies that “It is more than okay to make mistakes once in a while”.

The Pratfall Effect

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