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Online social networks (OSN) such as Facebook and Twitter have created a space for people to express their opinions easily, which can encourage open dialogue and stimulate a lot of disagreement. Research now reveals that just as in a face-to-face relationship, intellectually modest behavior, such as acknowledging when you are wrong, leads to a better online impression.

“Willingness to commit to admitting wrongdoing is positively related to acceptance, openness to experience, honesty / humility and emotional intelligence,” said Adam Feterman, assistant professor of psychology and director of the Laboratory for Personality, Emotion and Social Knowledge at the University of Houston. diary Social Psychology. “With potentially hundreds (or more, depending on their privacy settings) of passive witnesses, the user can admit they are wrong or avoid it. We’ve found that the best way for an OSN user to act here is to publicly admit they’re wrong. ”

In other words, as the old statesman Benjamin Franklin advised in 1700, “Honesty is the best policy,” at least if you want people to think well of you online.

In four experiments, participants read a staged argument on a Facebook wall – a Facebook section that allows users to post information and participate in a discussion – between two users. The argument focused on a fictional dietary supplement and reflected common themes from the OSN health food discourse during the study to increase realism.

The last post by participant A contained the manipulation. On one (acceptance) condition, participant A ended the conversation by posting: “… I guess I’m wrong and you’re right about that. Thank you for posting these links and thank you for the conversation!” In the other condition (refusal), participant A ended the conversation by publishing: “… I still think I am right and you are wrong. Thanks for posting these links and thanks for talking! ”

“Those who have witnessed a user of OSN commit to admitting wrongdoing rate this user as higher features of communication and competence than when they have witnessed a user who is not engaged in admitting wrongdoing. wrongness, “Feterman said. “Furthermore, we found that those in the error condition were more likely to show an interest in interacting with the admitting user than those in the non-acceptance condition.”

People have an inherent need to form and maintain relationships, but forming them online can be difficult because people gather information about you based only on published textual and graphical information.

“People tend to create the most positive impressions for those at OSN who show public, open and modest online behavior,” Feterman said. “Admitting a mistake serves as a sign of intellectual humility, fellowship and competence. Although the confessor tells the onlookers that they were incompetent in this case, this implies that they are ready to work together and that they are competent enough to recognize the wrong knowledge and change it. ”

In a humorous conclusion to the research report, Feterman concludes: “Therefore, acknowledging a flaw in the OSN seems to lead to better impression results than non-recognition. At least we can conclude that until someone provides evidence that we are wrong. If such a time comes, we will never acknowledge it. ”

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More information:
Adam K. Feterman et al., When you’re wrong on Facebook, just admit it, Social Psychology (2022). DOI: 10.1027 / 1864-9335 / a000473

Provided by the University of Houston

Quote: Science said: Tell the truth on Facebook or risk your reputation (2022, May 3), extracted on May 3, 2022 from

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