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J Appl Psychol. 2016 Jan;101(1):50-67. doi: 10.1037/apl0000037. Epub 2015 Jun 29.

Catching rudeness is like catching a cold: The contagion effects of low-intensity negative behaviors.

Author information

1
Department of Management, Warrington College of Business Administration, University of Florida.

Abstract

In this article we offer a new perspective to the study of negative behavioral contagion in organizations. In 3 studies, we investigate the contagion effect of rudeness and the cognitive mechanism that explains this effect. Study 1 results show that low-intensity negative behaviors like rudeness can be contagious, and that this contagion effect can occur based on single episodes, that anybody can be a carrier, and that this contagion effect has second-order consequences for future interaction partners. In Studies 2 and 3 we explore in the laboratory the cognitive mechanism that underlies the negative behavioral contagion effect observed in Study 1. Specifically, we show that rudeness activates a semantic network of related concepts in individuals' minds, and that this activation influences individual's hostile behaviors. In sum, in these 3 studies we show that just like the common cold, common negative behaviors can spread easily and have significant consequences for people in organizations.

PMID:
26121091
DOI:
10.1037/apl0000037
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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