There’s tough love, then there’s really bitchy love.
A new study at the University of Plymouth found that people who insult their friends aren’t being mean, they are looking out for their friends’ well being. Nearly 150 adults were asked about their pals in hypothetical situations and those who were found to deliver the truth in a harsh way, got through to their friend.
“We identified several everyday examples where this might be the case — for instance, inducing fear of failure in a loved one who is procrastinating instead of studying for an exam,” psychological scientist and the study’s author Belén López-Pérez wrote.
The researchers found that people who were mean to their partners were more likely to be empathetic and wanted their partners to succeed.
“These findings shed light on social dynamics, helping us to understand, for instance, why we sometimes may try to make our loved ones feel bad if we perceive this emotion to be useful to achieve a goal,” López-Pérez said. "We have shown that people can be 'cruel to be kind' — that is, they may decide to make someone feel worse if this emotion is beneficial for that other person, even if this does not entail any personal benefit for them.”
But, researchers also found that people sometimes seek to worsen others' mood for their own personal gain.
The participants were asked questions and provided games to play, they listened to music clips and talked about emotions.
The study suggests that empathy led people to choose particular negative emotional experiences that they believed would ultimately help their partner be successful in the context of the game.
"These findings shed light on social dynamics, helping us to understand, for instance, why we sometimes may try to make our loved ones feel bad if we perceive this emotion to be useful to achieve a goal," López-Pérez concludes.
In conclusion, researchers found:
“People may try to make someone else feel negative emotions if they think experiencing those emotions will be beneficial in the long run. The findings reveal that people may sometimes seek to induce negative emotions in others for altruistic reasons, not simply for their own pleasure or benefit.”
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