Being popular may cause you to have less friends
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Popular girls and boys get more attention from their peers, but they are also often unconsciously avoided by the very same people, a new study has found.
Psychologist Tessa Lansu from Radboud University Nijmegen in five separate studies investigated the reactions of youngsters between the ages of 10 and 12 to their classmates.
She looked in particular at popularity and aggression. The most important questions were: what is the role of implicit processes in peer relationships? And how do the characteristics of the perceiver and the perceived influence this process?
Lansu investigated implicit processes using an approach-avoidance task in which children reacted to the classmates' names by moving a joystick.
If they thought a classmate is nice at an implicit level, they quickly pulled the joystick towards themselves; if they thought the other child is not so nice or unpleasant, they quickly pushed the stick away.
In addition, she used eye-tracking to determine how long someone looked at the photo of a classmate.
The study found that although popular boys and girls are considered nice at a conscious level, they trigger a more negative reaction at an unconscious level.
Also, unpopular youngsters react more negatively to popular girls than popular youngsters do.
Popularity also had an effect on the behaviour of anyone working together with a popular youngster: those who did an assignment with a popular classmate behaved less dominantly and negatively than those who worked with an unpopular classmate.
Girls who worked with a popular classmate behaved more submissively and had less influence on the outcome of the task than girls who worked with an unpopular partner.
Popular girls, in addition, were more likely to take a leading role and to notice their team mates' wishes and signals while popular boys showed less of this sensitive leadership.
"Popularity is therefore of more significance in girls than in boys when working with others," Lansu said.