“I lie you.”
As well-used as a come-on as that popular Thai bar boy phrase is, on a scale of 1 to 10 in believability it rates around a -20.
“You hansum man!”
There’s a reason those platitudes whispered in your ear are called sweet nothings. Because there is nothing in the world that’d convince you that anyone would still consider your tired looking ass the least bit attractive, much less handsome. Even as much as you’d like to believe that study little devil thinks you’re okay looking, the mirror on the wall of the bar proves otherwise. Unless you have blinders on. Which should be passed out in Thailand’s gay gogo bars just as readily as 3D glasses are at the movie theaters these days.
Flattery, as insincere as it is, is the stock in trade of bar boys trolling for their night’s meal ticket. It’s difficult to believe that even they expect the aging farang they’re cooing at to take their comments seriously. Or so you’d think. The results say differently. The smiles on the faces of those who have just been told how handsome, strong, and desirable they are would lead you to believe ‘I lie you’ must be the gods’ honest truth.
Are we really that pathetic that we’d believe the adoring crap bar boys try to feed us? Are the customers at Thailand gay gogo bars so delusional they really think those young studs find them attractive? Do they have such a slim grasp on reality that insincere flattery actually works?
Yup, smells like science to me.
‘Cuz it can’t be the bullshit the bar boys are shovelling out that’s responsible for that odor.
Despite already knowing the answer, women all over the world routinely turn to their mates for affirmation of what they don’t really believe themselves. And the men of the world know that unless they are interested in a divorce or having their dick cut off in the middle of the night the only acceptable answer is, “No honey, those pants don’t make your ass look fat.” Even while they are thinking, “Levi Strauss is not to blame for your gargantuan backside, the fault for that lays squarely on the shoulders of all that Haagen Dazs you’ve been grazing on.” As nice as it would be to think only women with their inferior intellect are suspectable to insincere compliments, men too are more than willing to believe the unbelievable when it paints them in a good light. Or allows them to think that hot young thang is gonna actually enjoy what they’re about to put him through.
We do, however, tend to discount those compliments when we know the person flattering us is after something. Ulterior motives are always suspicious. Though we may be vain, we are not stupid. But according to research done by professors of marketing Elaine Chan and Jaideep Sengupta at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, it’s not vanity that makes us an easy mark. It’s that we are needy. Their study shows that being driven by the need for validation, even though we may consciously discount blatantly insincere compliments, our unconscious mind laps that crap up. They say most people prefer any form of recognition over no recognition at all.
Conducting a trio of studies, the professors examined how flattery affects our decision-making. In their primary study, participants were shown a flyer from a clothing store that complimented them for being stylish and chic. Participants knew perfectly well the compliment wasn’t aimed specifically at them, and the ulterior motive was plain – the leaflet contained a message asking them to shop at the store. There was nothing subtle about the attempt to flatter, much like a bar boy cooing in your ear, the obviousness was way over the top.
On a conscious level, the participants discounted the value of the compliment because of its ulterior motive. However, the results showed that even after discounting, the initial positive reaction to the flattering message dis not get wiped out; instead, it coexisted with the discounted evaluation; even when participants were consciously aware of the fact they were being flattered insincerely. In the study, participants still chose the store that complimented them over a business that did not. Maybe Van Gogh had it right but just didn’t go far enough. Chan and Sengupta’s findings suggest that flattery has an insidious ability to pierce through the conscious mind and into the unconscious, where it creates persistent feelings that could affect the outcome of all kinds of activities. Some of which could be detrimental to the health of your wallet.
In the third part of their study, the professors wanted to determine if some people are more suspectable to bullshit than others. Big surprise, some are: the more needy among us. Using a fresh batch of participants they divided the group into thirds. Prior to showing them the same flyer filled with insincere flattery, they had 1/3 of the group write out all the good things they could think about themselves, an affirmation of their positive attributes. Another third of the group were asked to write down a list of their negative personality traits, and the remainder were just given the flyer, to act as a test group. The results of that study showed those who had thought nice things about themselves were the least likely to be persuaded by insincere flattery, while those who had just dwelled on their negative traits fell for the bull hook, line, and sinker.
Even the most hardened heart, clogged by a diet of fatty fried foods, can’t help but be swayed by the sweet compliments Thai bar boys pass out with abandon. That doesn’t mean your wallet has to suffer the insidious effects of insincere flattery. Sure taking a shower and changing out of your soiled, too tight T-shirt before heading off to a night at the gogo bars will help increase your chances of scoring one of the hotter working guys, but the work done by Chan and Sengupta suggests you’d be much better off by thinking a few good thoughts about yourself first. For some, trying to come up with those affirmations, however, might be a problem.
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