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More reasons to be nice: It's less work for everyone
Date:3/9/2011

A polite act shows respect. But a new study of a common etiquetteholding a door for someonesuggests that courtesy may have a more practical, though unconscious, shared motivation: to reduce the work for those involved. The research, by Joseph P. Santamaria and David A. Rosenbaum of Pennsylvania State University, is the first to combine two fields of study ordinarily considered unrelated: altruism and motor control. It is to be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"The way etiquette has been viewed by Emily Postthat you're being proper by following social codesis undoubtedly part of it," said psychology professor Rosenbaum. "Our insight is there is another contributor: the mental representation of other people's physical effort. Substantial research in the field of motor control shows that people are good at estimating how much effort they and others expend," Rosenbaum continued. "We realized that this concept could be extended to a shared-effort model of politeness."

The researchers videotaped people approaching and passing through the door of a university building. The tapes were analyzed for the relationships among several behaviors: Did the first person hold the door for a follower or followers and for how long? How did the likelihood of holding the door depend on the distance between the first person at the door and whomever followed?

"The most important result," Rosenbaum said, "was that when someone reached the door and two people followed, the first person at the door held the door longer than if only one person followed. The internal calculation on the part of the first arriver was, 'My altruism will benefit more people, so I'll hold the door longer.'"

Another finding: the followers who noticed the door-holder hastened their steps, helping to "fulfill the implicit pact" between themselves and the opener "to keep their joint effort be
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Contact: Tiffany Harrington
tharrington@psychologicalscience.org
202-293-9300
Association for Psychological Science
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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