Confirmed: You can judge people by the company they keep

There is an old adage, “take stock of the company you keep”. As it turns out, we are more tolerant of people who have similar negative personality traits as us.


There is an old adage, “take stock of the company you keep". While there are many reasons why we might wish to be knowledgeable about the people we associate with, a recent study gives us a potentially new reason. One that might give a few of us pause. As it turns out, we are more tolerant of people who have similar negative personality traits as us.

In the study by professors Miller, Maples-Keller and Lamkin, college students were asked to rate themselves on a series of personality traits, some positive and some negative. Ten days later they were asked to rate how they felt about other people who had those traits. The single most consistent finding was that subjects viewed other people more favorably if they shared a trait, no matter what the trait was.

That is to say, if a subject had a lack of impulse control they would rate another person who shared that trait more highly than a person of typical impulse control would have.

This tendency was strongest, however, in one trait above all: antagonism. With the connection being most prominent for the the trifecta of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.

Niccolo Machiavelli

There are some who object to the idea that those traits are all that bad.

Now, antagonistic people didn't claim to like these traits in other people. They rated them as traits of average likability in other people, but this was much higher than the resounding disapproval of the trait given by people who did not claim to be antagonistic. A person with a generally negative trait will tend to tolerate their own trait in others.

This information might not come as a surprise. After all, we can all think of that one couple who have an odd trait or two between them but don't mind at all. And traits that most people might find negative, like Machiavellianism, can be viewed more favorably by others; be it by differing values or by rationalization. This, of course, might also explain why people would be attracted to others who share their most toxic tendencies; they just don't view them as negatively as others do.

Questions remain with this data, all of the subjects self-reported their tendencies to these personality traits. Would a person who doesn't know they are antagonistic still think of it as an average trait? Were the subjects honest? The study also only asked about likability, there was no inquiry into if they would interact with people who had those traits.

It seems that people who declare themselves to have certain personality traits view that trait more favorably in others. So, if you like people who have questionable tendencies take a good look at yourself.

--

Billionaire warlords: Why the future is medieval

The world's next superpower might just resurrect the Middle Ages.

Videos
  • Russia? China? No. The rising world superpower is the billionaire class. Our problem, says Sean McFate, is that we're still thinking in nation states.
  • Nation states have only existed for the last 300-400 years. Before that, wealthy groups – tribes, empires, aristocracies, etc – employed mercenaries to wage private wars.
  • As wealth inequality reaches combustion point, we could land back in the status quo ante of the Middle Ages. Who will our overlords be? Any or all of the 26 ultra-rich billionaires who own as much as the world's 3.8 billion poorest. What about Fortune 500, which is more powerful than most of the states in the world? Random billionaires, multinational corporations, and the extractive industry may buy armies and wage war on their own terms.
Keep reading Show less

Golden blood: the rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
Keep reading Show less

5 of the worst keto diet side effects

The keto diet can help with weight loss, but at what cost?

Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • In addition to weight loss, there are a few well-known side effects of the keto diet, some of which can be unpleasant.
  • Some side effects of the keto diet are bound to occur, though others only happen when the diet is implemented poorly.
  • The keto diet doesn't have to lead to a host of negative side effects, but anyone considering undertaking the diet over the long term should be especially careful.
Keep reading Show less