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Warmth and Competence: Do You Perceive Warm Person as Less Competent?

What's more important to you, warmth or competence?

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy of Harvard Business School and colleagues did the study and found some interesting things:

This research concludes that by far the strongest influences that we have on one another result from a person's perceived warmth and competence. These two dimensions help us understand how we think about and act toward others.

Some conclusions are that:

  • When assessing someone else, warmth plays a more important role than competence.
  • When assessing ourselves, we believe that competence (the capability of someone to carry out intentions) is more important.
  • Without knowing, we often assume that there is a "trade off" between warmth and competence in a person. These two dimensions help us understand how we think about and act toward others. We admire warm/competent people, envy (and sometimes scapegoat) those who are cold and competent, pity those who are perceived as warm and incompetent, and have contempt for the cold and incompetent.

Link - via Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Of course, it all should depend on *what* the person is doing for you. I'd take a cold-hearted yet competent surgeon over a warm but bumbling doctor any day, but the study isn't about knowing competence - it's about perceiving competence. The last point is particularly intriguing - do you assume that warm people are naturally incompetent and that competent people are cold and mechanical?


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The article has it wrong. People have a preference for being warm or not being warm. You will be more successful when working with others if you are warm and they prefer you be warm. Likewise, you will be more successful by staying professional and avoiding warmth if the other person prefers this. They key is identifying the persons preference first.
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All of the competent people I know are warm. The incompetent people generally tend towards cold, abusive, or extremely idiotic.
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