Figure 1 - uploaded by Erica J. Boothby
Content may be subject to copyright.
Results of Study 2: Means of actual and perceived effect of compliment. Error bars show the 95% confidence intervals around the means.

Results of Study 2: Means of actual and perceived effect of compliment. Error bars show the 95% confidence intervals around the means.

Source publication
Article
Full-text available
A simple compliment can make someone’s day, start a new friendship, or just make the world a better, kinder place. So, why don’t people give more compliments? Perhaps people misforecast the effect their compliment will have. Five studies explored this possibility. In Studies 1a and 1b, compliment givers underestimated how positively the person rece...

Context in source publication

Context 1
... than givers thought they would, M = 4.18, 95% CI = [3.87, 4.50] (see Figure 1). ...

Citations

... For instance, contacting someone to ask for a favor (e.g., Zhang & Epley, 2009) qualifies as a reach-out but also adds an element of asking for help that is not necessary to qualify as a reach-out. Likewise, contacting someone to offer a compliment (e.g., as in Boothby & Bohns, 2021;Zhao & Epley, 2021a, 2021b qualifies as a reach-out but also adds an element of saying something positive about a recipient's traits or behaviors that is not necessary to qualify as a reach-out. As a final example, contacting someone to express gratitude (e.g., as in Grant & Gino, 2010) qualifies as a reach-out but also adds an element of thanking someone for some positive behavior they have done for oneself or others in the past-which is not necessary to qualify as a reach-out. ...
... Relatedly, research on compliments has shown that people offering compliments-which say something positive about a recipient's traits or behavior-underestimated the positive impact of their compliments on recipients (Boothby & Bohns, 2021;Zhao & Epley, 2021a, 2021b. Such misestimations are also explained by expressors' failure to sufficiently adjust from their own perspective to the recipient's perspective (Epley et al., 2004(Epley et al., , 2006. ...
Article
Full-text available
People are fundamentally social beings and enjoy connecting with others. Sometimes, people reach out to others-whether simply to check-in on how others are doing with brief messages or to show that they are thinking of others by sending small gifts to them. Yet, despite the importance and enjoyment of social connection, do people accurately understand how much other people value being reached out to by someone in their social circle? Across a series of preregistered experiments, we document a robust underestimation of how much other people appreciate being reached out to. We find evidence compatible with an account wherein one reason this underestimation of appreciation occurs is because responders (vs. initiators) are more focused on their feelings of surprise at being reached out to. A focus on feelings of surprise in turn predicts greater appreciation. We further identify process-consistent moderators of the underestimation of reach-out appreciation, finding that it is magnified when the reach-out context is more surprising: when it occurs within a surprising (vs. unsurprising) context for the recipient and when it occurs between more socially distant (vs. socially close) others. Altogether, this research thus identifies when and why we underestimate how much other people appreciate us reaching out to them, implicating a heightened focus on feelings of surprise as one underlying explanation. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... When asked to actually express their gratitude [39], or to pass along a compliment to either a stranger [40] or a friend or family member [38] (Figure 2), those expressing appreciation consistently underestimated how positively their recipients would react. These miscalibrated expectations are not limited to a single exchange because observers who predicted how a recipient would feel receiving one new compliment each day over the course of a week also underestimated how positive recipients would report feeling each day, expecting that recipients would feel successively less Trends in Cognitive Sciences positive after each daily compliment when recipients actually reported feeling similarly positive after each one [41]. ...
Article
Full-text available
A person’s well-being depends heavily on forming and maintaining positive relationships, but people can be reluctant to connect in ways that would create or strengthen relationships. Emerging research suggests that miscalibrated social cognition may create psychological barriers to connecting with others more often. Specifically, people may underestimate how positively others will respond to their own sociality across a variety of social actions, including engaging in conversation, expressing appreciation, and performing acts of kindness. We suggest that these miscalibrated expectations are created and maintained by at least three mechanisms: differential construal, uncertain responsiveness, and asymmetric learning. Underestimating the positive consequences of social engagement could make people less social than would be optimal for both their own and others’ well-being.
... The results of current research can already be used for various purposes: to create and log "a personal acts diary" (Kerr et al., 2015); to enhance kindness for well-being purposes by accessing memories of kind acts conducted or experienced in the past (Exline et al., 2012); to develop the ability and inclination to compliment others (Boothby & Bohns, 2020); to develop detailed questionnaires designed to assess kindness levels for purposes of providing directions for personal development; and to construct thematic training programs in order to achieve positive psychological transformation. For future research, it is recommended to analyze goals and motives that elicit kind behavior; to define the mechanics of kind behavior (actions and operations); and to study the ingredients that lead to kind behaviors: decision making, execution, control, and correction. ...
Article
Background. Kindness and acts of kindness have the potential to cause tremendously positive effects on subjective well-being, reflected in improvements in mental and physical health, and interpersonal relationships. Fostering knowledge about kindness may help in self-development and psychotherapeutic interventions aimed to improve an individual's emotional well-being. However, existing research data and understanding of this phenomenon in Russia, as well as descriptions of acts of kindness, are presently relatively limited. Objective. To study the Russian understanding of kindness, its meaning in the Russian context; to categorize a variety of identified acts of kindness; and to define kindness based on the data derived from a Russian sample. Design. There were 291 Russian participants, recruited using an online recruiting platform, who filled out an online questionnaire that identified definitions of kindness with corresponding examples. Also captured in the sample were the participant's age, gender, and religiosity. The data underwent qualitative analysis through open, axial, and focused coding. Results. As a result of qualitative analysis, four theme categories emerged to define kindness: a) personal states and qualities (one's own states and self-perception, moral values and qualities, self-regulation and emotional stability); b) openness to others (attention to others, love and positive attitude); c) emotional and cognitive understanding of others and tolerance, actions and behavior (altruistic sacrifice, help, politeness and respect, forgiveness, generosity, pleasing actions). Concrete examples of kind acts and behavior were categorized. A definition of kindness was formulated based on the data. Conclusion. The research results can be used in training, counselling, and therapeutic sessions to increase subjective well-being. Directions for further research have been defined. © 2022. Lomonosov Moscow State University. All Rights Reserved.
... For instance, contacting someone to ask for a favor (e.g., Zhang & Epley, 2009) qualifies as a reach-out but also adds an element of asking for help that is not necessary to qualify as a reach-out. Likewise, contacting someone to offer a compliment (e.g., as in Boothby & Bohns, 2021;Zhao & Epley, 2021a, 2021b qualifies as a reach-out but also adds an element of saying something positive about a recipient's traits or behaviors that is not necessary to qualify as a reach-out. As a final example, contacting someone to express gratitude (e.g., as in Grant & Gino, 2010) qualifies as a reach-out but also adds an element of thanking someone for some positive behavior they have done for oneself or others in the past-which is not necessary to qualify as a reach-out. ...
... Relatedly, research on compliments has shown that people offering compliments-which say something positive about a recipient's traits or behavior-underestimated the positive impact of their compliments on recipients (Boothby & Bohns, 2021;Zhao & Epley, 2021a, 2021b. Such misestimations are also explained by expressors' failure to sufficiently adjust from their own perspective to the recipient's perspective (Epley et al., 2004(Epley et al., , 2006. ...
... One research program developed concurrently with our own suggests that barriers to prosociality might indeed be more widespread. Specifically, Boothby & Bohns (2020) reported three experiments in which university students were asked to compliment a stranger on campus with either a scripted or unscripted compliment, and they found that participants tended to underestimate how positive and overestimate how negative their recipients would feel. Our research extends these results in at least five ways. ...
... In addition, the positive impact of compliments may be easy to undervalue because they are specifically directed to a unique recipient, meaning that the compliments are likely to be uniquely valued by the recipient in a way that is difficult for the expresser, or third-party observers, to fully appreciate (Van Boven et al., 2013). This predicts that even third-person observers (who are not receiving an actual compliment directed at them) will also underestimate how warm and competent the compliments will be perceived by recipients, and will therefore also underestimate how positive compliment recipients will feel (c.f., Boothby & Bohns, 2020). ...
... η 2 p = .073, qualified (Kumar & Epley, 2018), and the competence result is consistent with concurrently conducted research investigating compliments to strangers (Boothby & Bohns, 2020). This suggests a potentially robust tendency for those who express kind thoughts to be overly self-critical about how well they are expressing their feelings by getting the words "just right" when anticipating how positive their compliments might make another person feel. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Compliments increase the well-being of both expressers and recipients, yet people report in a series of surveys giving fewer compliments than they should give, or would like to give. Nine experiments suggest that a reluctance to express genuine compliments partly stems from underestimating the positive impact that compliments will have on recipients. Participants wrote genuine compliments and then predicted how happy and awkward those compliments would make recipients feel. Expressers consistently underestimated how positive the recipients would feel but overestimated how awkward recipients would feel (Experiments 1-3, S4). These miscalibrated expectations are driven partly by perspective gaps in which expressers underestimate how competent—and to a lesser extent how warm—their compliments will be perceived by recipients (Experiments 1-3). Because people’s interest in expressing a compliment is partly driven by their expectations of the recipient’s reaction, undervaluing a compliment creates a barrier to expressing them (Supplemental Experiments S2, S3, S4). As a result, directing people to focus on the warmth conveyed by their compliment (Experiment 4) increased interest in expressing it. We believe these findings may reflect a more general tendency for people to underestimate the positive impact of prosocial actions on others, leading people to be less prosocial than would be optimal for both their own and others’ well-being.
Article
Subjective well-being is characterized by relatively frequent positive emotions, relatively infrequent negative emotions, and high life satisfaction. Although myriad research topics related to subjective well-being have been explored – from how it should be measured to how it affects physical health – a key finding is that social connections are crucial. Researchers are therefore increasingly exploring whether subjective well-being can be improved through interventions that encourage specific types of social behaviors, including prosociality, gratitude, extraversion, and brief social interactions. We review this recent work, highlighting potential behavioral and psychological mechanisms underlying the effectiveness of such interventions, along with their boundary conditions.
Article
Performing acts of kindness increases well-being, yet people can be reluctant to ask for help that would enable others’ kindness. We suggest that people may be overly reluctant because of miscalibrated expectations about others’ prosocial motivation, underestimating how positively others will feel when asked for help. A pretest identified that interest in asking for help was correlated with expectations of how helpers would think and feel, but a series of scenarios, recalled experiences, and live interactions among adult participants in the United States (total N = 2,118) indicated that those needing help consistently underestimated others’ willingness to help, underestimated how positively helpers would feel, and overestimated how inconvenienced helpers would feel. These miscalibrated expectations stemmed from underestimating helpers’ prosocial motivation while overestimating compliance motivation. This research highlights a limitation of construing help-seeking through a lens of compliance by scholars and laypeople alike. Undervaluing prosociality could create a misplaced barrier to asking for help when needed.
Article
In everyday life, people often have opportunities to improve others’ lives, whether offering well-intentioned advice or complimenting someone on a job well done. These are opportunities to provide “prosocial input” (information intended to benefit others), including feedback, advice, compliments, and expressions of gratitude. Despite widespread evidence that giving prosocial input can improve the well-being of both givers and recipients, people sometimes hesitate to offer their input. The current paper documents when and why people fail to give prosocial input, noting that potential givers overestimate the costs of doing so (e.g., making recipients uncomfortable) and underestimate the benefits (e.g., being helpful) for at least four psychological reasons. Unfortunately, the reluctance to give prosocial input results in a short supply of kindness.
Article
Performing random acts of kindness increases happiness in both givers and receivers, but we find that givers systematically undervalue their positive impact on recipients. In both field and laboratory settings (Experiments 1a through 2b), those performing an act of kindness reported how positive they expected recipients would feel and recipients reported how they actually felt. From giving away a cup of hot chocolate in a park to giving away a gift in the lab, those performing a random act of kindness consistently underestimated how positive their recipients would feel, thinking their act was of less value than recipients perceived it to be. Givers' miscalibrated expectations are driven partly by an egocentric bias in evaluations of the act itself (Experiment 3). Whereas recipients' positive reactions are enhanced by the warmth conveyed in a kind act, givers' expectations are relatively insensitive to the warmth conveyed in their action. Underestimating the positive impact of a random act of kindness also leads givers to underestimate the behavioral consequences their prosociality will produce in recipients through indirect reciprocity (Experiment 4). We suggest that givers' miscalibrated expectations matter because they can create a barrier to engaging in prosocial actions more often in everyday life (Experiments 5a and 5b), which may result in people missing out on opportunities to enhance both their own and others' well-being. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
Article
Receiving social support is critical for well-being, but concerns about a recipient’s reaction could make people reluctant to express such support. Our studies indicate that people’s expectations about how their support will be received predict their likelihood of expressing it (Study 1, N = 100 online adults), but these expectations are systematically miscalibrated. Participants who sent messages of support to others they knew (Study 2, N = 120 students) or who expressed support to a new acquaintance in person (Study 3, N = 50 adult pairs) consistently underestimated how positively their recipients would respond. A systematic perspective gap between expressers and recipients may explain miscalibrated expectations: Expressers may focus on how competent their support seems, whereas recipients may focus on the warmth it conveys (Study 4, N = 300 adults). Miscalibrated concerns about how to express support most competently may make people overly reluctant to reach out to someone in need.