Thank You!

Being polite is, or so I thought, something that we were taught by our parents when we were young. The rules of etiquette have been reduced in number and severity over the years but they still lurk deep in our psyche. One action that we often encounter many times a day is going through a door in front or after someone whom we don’t know.

When someone lets the door slam in our face, we say “how rude” and mutter dark thoughts about the person’s parentage. We, of course, would never do such a thing, but I’ll bet that you’ve been caught while a string of people walk through while you are keeping hold of the handle. We grin and mutter for a few moments, but we get over it. Clearly, door behavior is a major is a question of etiquette, but the real question is what is the reason that we all do it.

This is clearly something that needs a study. Santamaria and Rosebaum rose to the challenge (1). They started with two working hypotheses.
  1.         The first was that a person would hold open the door for a follower if the follower was within a critical distance from the door opener.
  2.    .     The second was that the door opener calculated the total effort expended by both people and if it was less by holding the door open, it would be held.
  3.       There is a third, but it falls outside the rules of etiquette. It is that the opener finds the follower attractive and is initiating their catch and release procedure.


Well, after a deal of measuring distances and timing, the conclusion was that the critical distance was not the key. We are apparently doing complex calculations to minimize communal effort, but empathy will also produce a response. That is, the followers will speed up to lessen the effort of the door opener and the total communal effort is apparently reduced. 

Not everyone is great on empathy though and some people will stroll through like they are royalty and you are an adoring subject. Luckily, that doesn’t occur very often and the concept of some of the underlying reasons for etiquette being the minimizing our joint effort remains intact. Other etiquette requirements, such as what you do with your pinkie when sipping Earl Grey with lemon from your bone china teacup, remain for the moment one of life’s great mysteries.

  1. J.P. Santamaria, & D.A. Rosenbaum, Psychological Science22, 584, (2011).

One Response so far.

  1. Mr Lonely says:

    walking here with a smile.. have a nice day ~ =D

    Regards,
    http://www.lonelyreload.com (A Growing Teenager Diary) ..

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