John Van Seters Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, and Author of Popular: Finding Happiness and Success in a World That Cares Too Much About the Wrong Kinds of Relationships UNC Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
So, with this research, there were then lots of research studies that were
designed to understand these ideas a little bit more.
Is it the case that there are some social behaviors
that really consistently discriminate between those that are popular, rejected,
neglected, controversial, and average.
And a lot of the way that's done is using the same
peer nomination procedures that we talked about before.
So, we talked about the idea of giving kids a roster of all their grade mates,
and asking them, who do you like the most, and who do you like the least?
Well, you can do the same thing by looking at behaviors.
So, for instance, they would say, who starts fight?
Or who gets mad and angry easily?
And based on the number of times someone was picked on those rosters,
we and other investigators are able to calculate scores to determine
who are the kids that are the most aggressive?
So, for instance,
one of these is commonly referred to as the Revised Class Play procedure.
And that's a procedure that basically, asks kids to pick, who would they cast
from their class mates in a play where each player has a certain part.
And as you can see here, the parts generally fall into different categories.
There are parts that suggest that kids are sociable, or they're good leaders.
There are parts that suggest that kids are disruptive, or they're aggressive,
and there are parts that suggest they might be more isolated or lonely.
And for each of these they would pick, which kids seem to best fit the part.
And with those peer nominations,
they're able to get information about how each kid behaves according to their peers.
Well, many studies were done to look at these kinds of questions, and at one
point, a Meta-Analysis was done, which was an analysis of studies themselves.
In fact, about 44 studies were all put together, and
the results suggested some really clear patterns here.
What you'll see in this figure, is that you can look at the level of aggressive,
withdrawn, and sociable behavior among the popular, rejected, neglected, and
You don't see the average kids because they actually have the average level
of aggression, withdrawal, and sociability for each of these areas.
But what you can see very clearly
is that the kids who are rejected are very aggressive.
In fact, tone citizen, now in the Netherlands determined that about 50% of
kids who are rejected fall into a subcategory called rejected aggressive.
The others are those that are rejected withdrawn, and you can see that those
rejected kids are also much more likely than others to be withdrawn.
And that seems to be a huge reason why some kids are rejected right off the bat.
What you can see here also is that the controversial kids
are pretty aggressive also, so what makes them controversial?
Well, look over at the sociability area here,
what you can see is that while the rejected kids are aggressive or withdrawn,
and not very good at social skills, the controversial kids are really uniquely
able to be aggressive, but also sociable, highly sociable at the exact same time.
And because of that combination, it actually makes them more well,
controversial, but it makes them generally do well with their peers.
Those are some important take home findings here.
Of course, not surprisingly, you can see that the popular kids
are just about as sociable as anybody, and their particularly,
less likely to be withdrawn, in particularly less likely to be aggressive.
There are some other things too, I'm often asked about other factors beyond
aggression, sociability, and withdrawal that might play a role.
Of course, in many schools athletic ability is a really important predictor of
popularity as well.
You can also see some other things like friendship skills,
the rejected kids again, are usually pretty aggressive,
they may also be kids that are experiencing some sadness or some anxiety.
The neglected kids tend to not be very aggressive at all, and
sometimes they also appear to be pretty sad.
And the controversial kids, sometimes not reflected in those other measures,
but they tend to be the funny kids.
They are the class clowns, they do it in a way that's a little bit aggressive though,
either making fun of others or disrupting the classroom, so
they're sometimes aggressive in the way that their funny.
But again, they tend to get a laugh out of a lot of the other kids, which is why,
at least half of the kids like them.
So, we're talking a lot about ways in which kids
experiences might lead them to become popular or not, but
research has shown that a lot of this does not change as we grow up.
If you think about it, we can understand what happens every day when we're at work
with these same general principles, so
imagine that you're sitting at a board meeting or a company meeting,
with a lot of your coworkers, who is the person that speaks up first, right away?
Are they doing that in a way that seems to read the room well?
Do they understand the social norm of whats happening, and
do they guide the room where it needs to go, slowly and patiently?
If so, if they're able to read the room well, they may be controversial,
they may be popular, and that's good.
They're probably, very influential,
but sometimes it's that person who speaks first, impulsively right away with strong
opinions without reading the rest of the room.
The person that says, I don't like this idea, or
we shouldn't even be talking about this at all, that people tend to really roll their
eyes, and not be so excited about, and they are rejected.
They are the people that probably, also don't get invited to lunch with others, or
people don't hang out with them after work as much, it's the same general dynamic,
just in a grown up way.
Similarly, there are people at work who can be pretty aggressive,
people that tend to make fun of others, gossip about others, or generally
think about how to get themselves ahead by putting other people down.
By making their own contributions seem more important than others, and
that does not work very well at your own jobs, I'm sure.
And that's related to these same principles,
the same idea happens in our personal relationships.
Of course, there's always that dance in personal relationships about who's
going to initiate contact first, and
who's going to stay behind a little bit like those popular kids do, and wait for
others to come to them, and we see that exact same idea.
Popular people also are really good at not just asserting their own needs and
principles, but thinking about what's best for this couple, what's best for
this friendship group, how can I help facilitate and lead the overall norm here.
And that's how popular people do really well, whereas people who are rejected
tend to be in relationships where they just want what they can get out of it for
Even if that means hurting others or ignoring other people's' needs and
So, again, we see the same general patterns that were shown
in those play groups of seven year olds, and you can use those findings to
think about ways that our own adult relationships are also affected.
And who is popular, rejected, neglected, controversial, or