What politicians going positive teaches us about human motivation.

Remember back in 2008 when Obama said he disagreed with John McCain, but would always honor his military service?

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.


That feeling of niceness was great ... but it seems to be short-lived in political campaigns. The closer it gets to Election Day, the meaner the candidates seem to get, especially when it comes to each other.

We know that mean language weakens people's faith in the system, which isn't great.

Previous studies have shown that going negative can also be dangerous for the candidates themselves. When you start slinging mud at your opponents, you might get splashed yourself.

But what would happen if, instead of criticizing your opponent, you complimented them?

Professor Nicoletta Cavazza at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy wanted to find out. To do this, the researchers asked 90 students to sit down and read fake political speeches. Some of the speeches had the typical mostly-negative political cadence you'd expect.

But half were tweaked to include a compliment toward the opposition. For example: "I believe that my competitor, who is an upright and smart person, will agree with me about the need to change this situation."

What did Cavazza find? In the end, the students rated the complimentary politician as being more trustworthy overall.

Unfortunately, we're not likely to see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump getting all buddy-buddy.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

But this research does show us something interesting about our brains.

Cavazza cautioned that the study did have limitations, such as the fact that the politicians were made up, which might limit how much we can apply this to real politics just yet. More research will need to be done to tease out more nuance in their findings as well.

But the study does teach us that we tend to trust people more if it looks like they're going against their own best interests and acting in someone else's best interest instead.

In the case of politics, this can look like being nice to your competition.

But in real life, it can also look like helping someone out randomly. Imagine going to a car mechanic for repair. Maybe there's been a weird thump when it turns on or a little jingle-jangle noise when you go over 40 miles an hour. You leave the car with them for a few hours and when you get back, they've not only fixed the problem but also changed your oil for free!

What a standup bloke. You'd trust him with your car next time, right?

One of the most interesting things about politics is how it lets us see human nature played out on a national stage.

Next time I watch politics, I'll keep an eye out for any flattery because it could be the trick to winning ... although this year, I may have to wait until after Nov. 8 for that.

More
The Guardian / YouTube

Earlier this month, a beluga whale caught the world's attention by playing fetch with a rugby ball thrown by South African researchers off the waters of Norway.

The adorable video has been watched over 20 million times, promoting people across the globe to wonder how the whale became so comfortable around humans.

It's believed that the whale, known as Hvaldimir, was at some point, trained by the Russian military and was either released or escaped.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Facebook / Maverick Austin

Your first period is always a weird one. You know it's going to happen eventually, but you're not always expecting it. One day, everything is normal, then BAM. Puberty hits you in a way you can't ignore.

One dad is getting attention for the incredibly supportive way he handled his daughter's first period. "So today I got 'The Call,'" Maverick Austin started out a Facebook post that has now gone viral.

The only thing is, Austin didn't know he got "the call." His 13-year-old thought she pooped her pants. At that age, your body makes no sense whatsoever. It's a miracle every time you even think you know what's going on.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Instagram / Katie Sturino

Plus-size women are in the majority. In America, 68% of women wear a size 14 or higher. Yet many plus-sized are ignored by the fashion industry. Plus-sized clothing is a $21 billion industry, however only one-fifth of clothing sales are plus-sized. On top of that, plus-sized women are often body shamed, further reinforcing that bigger body types are not mainstream despite the fact that it is common.

Plus-size fashion blogger Katie Sturino recently called out her body shamers. Sturino runs the blog, The 12ish Style, showing that plus-sized fashion isn't – and shouldn't be – limited to clothes that hide the body.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via Twitter / Soraya

There is a strange right-wing logic that suggests when minorities fight for equal rights it's somehow a threat to the rights already held by those in the majority or who hold power.

Like when the Black Lives Matter movement started, many on the right claimed that fighting for black people to be treated equally somehow meant that other people's lives were not as valuable, leading to the short-lived All Lives Matter movement.

This same "oppressed majority" logic is behind the new Straight Pride movement which made headlines in August after its march through the streets of Boston.

Keep Reading Show less
popular