Washington: A new study has revealed that people evaluate their friends' behaviour more positively than do strangers, regardless of actual performance on a series of tasks, because their judgment is based on what they thought of them in advance.
Researchers said that we should then think twice before allowing people who know each other to be in positions to judge each other- from job interviews to legal settings.
The new study examined how real people evaluate the behaviour of themselves, their friends, and strangers. Psychologists know that people hold a number of biases when evaluating others, but most studies to date on this issue have used written descriptions of the behavior of hypothetical persons.
Daniel Leising of Technische Universitat Dresden and colleagues recruited pairs of friends for the study, asking them first to describe each others' personalities and then several days later, videotaped them participating in standardized, challenging situations in the lab.
The research team found that they could predict how participants would judge their friends' behaviour based on what they thought of them in advance, even before watching their videotaped behaviour.
It was found that we judged the behaviour of people we know in ways that are consistent with our general attitude toward them, so we attribute positive qualities to the behaviour of people we like. Also, we judge people we know to match our specific impressions of them.
"We really like to have our images of persons be consistent," Leising said. "This is probably beneficial in terms of arriving at an overall image that is representative - for example, if the person's behaviour in a situation is very atypical, we could discount it as an exception and not let it influence our overall image of the person much," the researcher added.
That representative image then allows us to predict people's future behaviour. Additionally, he says that the tendency to idealize our friends might serve as a "social glue" that increases social cohesion
But the flip side, Leising said, is that in specific situations, we are not able to objectively evaluate people we know, which could be problematic.
The study is published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.