Andy’s Quick Hits (23): How Rudeness Makes Decision-Making Worse

Andy Hab
3 min readJun 15, 2021
Photo 118185852 / Rude © Kiosea39 |

You know how it is, you get cut off by another car, someone says a stupid comment waiting in line at a shop, or someone rudely interrupts you in a meeting. These minor events, on the grand scale of things, can leave us seething and playing them over time and time again in our heads.

More than that a recent study just published shows how these rude events also have severe impacts on our subsequent decision-making.

The effects were studied with reference to anchoring bias. Anchoring bias is the fact that we anchor decisions and cognition on our first anchors, often the first information we hear. If I asked you whether you thought the population of Mongolia was higher or lower than 10 million, you have the anchor of 10 million in your head. So what do you think is the population of Mongolia? Guess! You will guess likely close to 10 million. The population is actually around three million, which you may now find surprising because I have already anchored you at 10 million.

This has many implications, for example in medical scenarios. If someone goes to the doctor and says “I have pains in my chest, I think I’m having a heart attack”, then the doctor has the anchor of heart attack that they must decide to investigate or ignore if the diagnosis is pointing to something else.

This is precisely one experiment that the researchers conducted, decision making in medical scenarios after participants had been subject to rudeness or seen someone acting rudely to another member of their team. They also researched negotiation and general knowledge scenarios. The results?

The results showed that those who had experienced or seen rudeness were much more likely to keep focused on the anchor despite evidence to the contrary. In daily life this can lead to bad decisions, in medical emergencies this can lead to more deaths.

“Basically, what we’re observing is a narrowing effect. Rudeness narrows your perspective, and that narrowed perspective makes anchoring more likely.”

This therefore shows that in the business world having respectful workplaces is not just a nice to have, but directly…

Andy Hab

Sharing fascinating, fun, and important knowledge on the brain and human behaviour - most days. And masters track athlete - still going strong!