• Profile

Can you ‘catch’ rudeness? Researchers say ‘yes’

M3 Global Newsdesk Apr 20, 2018

Did you know that rudeness—like a virus—is contagious? And while rudeness may not merit classification as a pathogenic organism, it can still “be caught,” according to several recent studies.







Researchers from the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, conducted three studies to assess the contagion effect of rudeness and the cognitive mechanism that may explain it.

Spreading rudeness: Negative behaviors can be easily spread and have significant consequences, including actions vital to patient care and safety.

In the first, they found that low-intensity negative behaviors such as rudeness can be contagious, that the contagion effect can occur even in single episodes, that anyone can be a ”carrier,” and that the contagion had second-order consequences for future interactions. In the second and third studies, the researchers found that rudeness can activate a semantic network of related concepts and can influence hostile behaviors. They concluded by likening rudeness to the common cold, negative behaviors can be easily spread and have significant consequences.

Negativity breeds negativity

Researchers in Israel sought to study rudeness and its effects on medical team performance. They included 39 natal intensive care unit teams that took part in a training workshop which included simulations of the acute care given to term and preterm newborns. In each workshop, two teams were randomized to either rudeness exposure, which included rude comments from the child’s mother unrelated to team performance, or a neutral control. Two additional teams were assigned to rudeness with a preventative or therapeutic intervention.

Each simulation session was scored by two independent judges via questionnaires designed to assess team performance. They found that rudeness had negative consequences on both diagnostic and intervention measures (mean therapeutic score: 3.81 vs 4.31 in controls; P < 0.01). It also negatively affected team processes, including sharing workload and information, helping, and communications vital to patient care (mean teamwork score: 4.04 vs 4.43, P < 0.05).

The preventative intervention, which involved cognitive bias modification, lessened most of the adverse effects of rudeness. The therapeutic intervention, consisting of narrative, had no significant effect.

These researchers concluded that rudeness negatively affected the performance of medical teams, and exposure to rudeness broke down collaborative actions vital to patient care and safety.

Finally, researchers of a third study used an experimental experience sampling design to assess how witnessing morning rudeness can affect subsequent perceptions and behaviors throughout the workday. For 10 days, they studied 81 professional and managerial employees.

Witnessing rudeness in the morning, they found, led to greater perceptions of workplace rudeness throughout the rest of the day. These perceptions were predictive of lower task performance, progress to goals, avoidance of interactions, and psychological withdrawal.

So, the next time you experience rudeness in the workplace or elsewhere, remember that it may have far-reaching effects on your mood and performance for the rest of your day and try not to “catch” it.


This story is contributed by Liz Meszaros and is a part of our Global Content Initiative, where we feature selected stories from our Global network which we believe would be most useful and informative to our doctor members.

Only Doctors with an M3 India account can read this article. Sign up for free or login with your existing account.
4 reasons why Doctors love M3 India
  • Exclusive Write-ups & Webinars by KOLs

  • Nonloggedininfinity icon
    Daily Quiz by specialty
  • Nonloggedinlock icon
    Paid Market Research Surveys
  • Case discussions, News & Journals' summaries
Sign-up / Log In
M3 app logo
Choose easy access to M3 India from your mobile!

M3 instruc arrow
Add M3 India to your Home screen
Tap  Chrome menu  and select "Add to Home screen" to pin the M3 India App to your Home screen