So Far we have discussed:

  • How to signal you are paying attention

  • How to show empathy

  • Why finding commonalities could help close the achievement gap

This session:

  • Vulnerability and the Pratfall Effect

  • Monitor your Positivity Ratio

Embrace the Pratfall Effect.

The Pratfall effect states that those who never make mistakes are perceived as less likable than those who commit the occasional mistake.

According to Vanessa Van Edwards, founder of The Science of People “This might sound counterintuitive, but research has found that vulnerability actually increases our likeability. It also helps us connect with people. This is the opposite of what many of us do every time we interact.” (1)

Psychologist Richard Wiseman wanted to figure out who would be more persuasive, a perfect performer or a vulnerable one.  He conducted a study where two actresses attempted to sell blenders in a mall.  One actress had a perfect presentation and produced an exceptional smoothie to the mall goers. The second actress also had a great presentation, but she “accidentally” forgot to tighten the lid on the blender, and spilled the smoothie all over her.  Guess which actress was more highly rated by the audience…

The second or “clumsy” actress was rated as more likable! 

Wiseman found that her vulnerability humanized her and therefore increased her influence on the audience.

Mistakes will make you more likable because you are portraying that you are a human and not a robot.

The Pratfall effect is the tendency for attractiveness to increase or decrease after an individual makes a mistake. A perceived competent individual would be, on average, more likable after committing a blunder, while the opposite would occur if a perceived average person makes a mistake." (2)

The Pratfall effect only works if you are perceived as competent (how to do this in the next post).

Remember: it is important to seem human to the students.

In my teaching days, I would purposely make a small mistake and wait until the students corrected me before I acknowledged it.  I would not get defensive, but rather I would thank them for their vigilance.  Finally, I would reiterate that everyone makes mistakes but it is important to learn and correct them. People willing to take responsibility for their own failures are perceived to have more integrity.

o    Trust them First.  Show your students you trust them first and they will do the same. This takes vulnerability 

o    Tell stories.  Tell appropriate stories about your life and your experiences and the students will be able to relate you better.  It may be especially important to tell stories about past failures you had.  This allows students to see you as a fallible human.


 (1) Van Edwards, V. 7 Scientifically Proven Steps to Increase Your Influence. http://www.scienceofpeople.com/5-get-naked/
 Pratfall effect. (2014, March 4). Retrieved January 3, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pratfall_effect

  (2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pratfall_effect#cite_note-Ein-Gar.2C_D._2012-2