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Rude awakening: Witnessing morning incivility darkens your experience of the whole day

02 November 2017

“She upset me.” Such a natural way to describe things, using the same causal language we use to talk about a racket striking a tennis ball. But is this the right way to frame our reactions to social situations?

Unlike a ball, we have a say in how we swerve when struck, and what we bring to a social situation influences how it affects us. Case in point, from a US-based team headed by Andrew Woolum of the University of North Carolina Wilmington: in research published in the Journal of Applied Psychologythey show how people perceive more workplace rudeness when exposed to notions of rudeness at the start of the day.

Woolum’s team recruited 81 people from an executive MBA course who worked in roles ranging from security, medicine and business. The participants completed surveys twice daily for ten consecutive workdays: they recorded their mood when they woke up, and in the evening they described the experiences they’d had at work that day.

The morning survey also linked to a short video of a workplace interaction that was supposedly material for a critical thinking task. In fact, the true purpose of the videos was to vary exposure to rudeness. On half the mornings the video incorporated an act of rudeness within the interaction, such as responding to a request with a lack of eye contact and unfriendly language; on other mornings the interaction was entirely cordial.

Read more on our Research Digest blog.

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