In a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, scientists examined how pettiness can change the way people perceive one another.
Results continuously showed that being petty made people seem less likeable, regardless of whether it was in the interest of others.
“Being precise isn’t always a good thing for the quality of relationships,” says study co-author Tami Kim, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
“Sometimes, leaving a little room for error might be a good idea.”
In the first experiment, participants were shown two transaction histories from payment app Venmo. In the first transaction history, repayments were in round amounts - $10, $35 and $20. In the second, repayments were in exact numbers - $9.99, $34.95 and $20.06. Researchers then asked participants who they would rather be friends with. Overwhelmingly, most picked the person who repaid their debt in round amounts.
Authors suggest that going to the exact cent was petty and for the most part, people responded negatively.
Previously, “people may have had other ways that they relied on to settle the bill: things like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll get you next time,'” says Kim.
“The rise of digital platforms like Venmo and Paypal are encouraging precision in the way that people exchange resources.”
In the second experiment, researchers put together three fake profiles which included their responses to how long they would help a person move their furniture. The first third responded saying they would help out for exactly an hour and 56 minutes - from 1 p.m. to 2:56 p.m.. The second third said two hours - 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. the final profiles responded with two hours and four minutes - 1 p.m. to 3:04 p.m.
Interestingly, the middle group of profiles who offered 2 hours received the most love despite offering less time than the third group. This confirmed the author's thoughts that people responded negatively to pettiness - being exact to the last minute.
“The downfall of pettiness can happen across many types of relationships, even amongst people who have been together for a long time,” Kim continues. “Pay attention to the ways even the simplest behaviour can be interpreted.”