The Slime Effect: Suspicion and Dislike of Likeable Behavior Toward Superiors

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An actor who is likeable toward superiors and dislikeable toward subordinates is judged as extremely dislikeable and slimy (Experiments 1 and 2). Subsequent experiments addressed several theoretical accounts of this slime effect. Likeable behaviors toward superiors induce suspicion of ulterior motivation, which is confirmed when dislikeable behaviors toward subordinates are observed (Experiment 3). The operation of a slime schema was indicated by the emergence of an illusory correlation between an actor's behavior and the status of the target, such that the actor was erroneously perceived as more likeable toward superiors (Experiment 4). Further, perceivers spontaneously discerned the behavioral pattern of “licking upward–kicking downward,” regardless of processing time (Experiment 5). Implications for impression formation and inconsistency resolution, trait inferences and correspondence bias, and lay theories of self-presentational behavior are discussed.

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