The ‘Pratfall Effect’

2 min readAug 6, 2018

How admitting your weaknesses can make you more likeable.

In 1966, the psychologist Elliot Aronson published a paper with an intriguing revelation.

His research had demonstrated that a simple blunder or mistake could, in some cases, improve the attractiveness or likability of someone.

Participants in the study were asked to listen to the recording of a quiz show contestant (played by an actor).

In one group they heard the ‘contestant’ answer 92% of the questions correctly.

Another group heard a separate recording which included the audio from the first recording but this time it also contained audio of the contestant spilling a cup of coffee at the end.

The respondents found the clumsy one more likeable.

Interestingly, what is true for humans is also true for products. This has obvious implications for marketing.

A brand can strengthen their message by admitting their disadvantages.

One of the most famous examples of this is the beer Guinness.

Compared to other beers it takes at least twice as long to pour because it requires a two phase pouring process.

Their canny marketing department turned this on its head with the inspired ‘Good things come to those who wait.’

If something seems too good to be true, it normally is. So if you want to make yourself or your brand more likely to be loved, be sure to make sure to show your that you’re not perfect (just be sure to make sure it’s not a humble brag!).

If you want to read up more on the Pratfall Effect, a good book to start with is Give & Take by Adam Grant.




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