How People See Each Other
June 3, 2022
We are all social animals, and we engage with different people at different levels. Some we are close to, some we are transactional, some we trust, some we avoid, etc.
What is the basis for how we engage with others? An interesting study in behavioral psychology(Universal dimensions of social cognition: warmth and competence) suggests that we all assess one another on two dimensions of likability and respect.
When you like someone, it means you trust them, and there is a fuzzy warmth between you and the person.
When you respect someone, it means you appreciate the efficiency and competence of the person.
So your viewpoint of others and the others’ viewpoint of you is an intersection of these two dimensions of liking and respect- do I like yhe person and do I respect the person.
I am reproducing here the relevant section from the research article-
The “warmth dimension captures traits that are related to perceived intent, including friendliness, helpfulness, sincerity, trustworthiness, and morality, whereas the competence dimension reflects traits that are related to perceived ability, including intelligence, skill, creativity, and efficacy.
Like all perception, social perception reflects evolutionary pressures. In encounters with conspecifics, social animals must determine, immediately, whether the ‘other’ is friend or foe (i.e., intends good or ill) and, then, whether the ‘other’ has the ability to enact those intentions. New data confirm these two universal dimensions of social cognition: warmth and competence. Promoting survival, these dimensions provide fundamental social structural answers about competition and status. People perceived as warm and competent elicit uniformly positive emotions and behavior, whereas those perceived as lacking warmth and competence elicit uniform negativity. People classified as high on one dimension and low on the other elicit predictable, ambivalent affective and behavioral reactions. These universal dimensions explain both interpersonal and intergroup social cognition.
The Big Takeaway is this- However good one may be on the competence dimension, relationships are first about trust at a fundamental level. Only once trust is established does the dimension of respect kick in.