Monkey See, Monkey Do


An editorial opinion by Jennifer Latson, an editor at Rice Business, which appeared in the Houston Chronicle on March 5, 2020, caught my eye.  The title, “Rudeness, and Kindness, trickle down from above,” seemed like just plain ‘ol common sense, but there is science to back this up.  Researchers at UCLA conducted an experiment which tested the influence of watching a video depicting another person’s kindness and generosity versus witnessing a video of physical training.  “The participants were given $5.00 for their time and told they could put as much of that money as they wanted into an envelope that would go (anonymously) to charity.”  Those who watched the video about the helpful man gave significantly more…in fact, some gave more than the $5.00.  


According to Ms. Latson, “Rudeness, naturally, is nothing new.  The problem is that name-calling, especially very public name-calling by very high-level figures, is contagious.  A study by University of Florida researchers found that when we see other people being rude, we’re more likely to behave similarly.  What’s more, it’s an automatic response that happens outside our awareness, making it difficult to consciously curb our own rudeness.  We become carriers of a highly infectious agent:  Each time we’re rude to someone else, we spread our vitriol to them and, potentially, to anyone in earshot.”

“When people in power show kindness, it can have an out-sized trickle-down effect, just as unkindness does…the entire culture can change depending on whether the CEO is respectful or rude.”

Unless you are one of the very few people who think we have too much kindness and politeness in the world, Ms. Latson’s column is a timely reminder of what our parents and teachers taught us.