MUM effect: what it is and how it affects relationships

People do not act alone when we are in a group. We also don’t do the same when we’re with another person.

In other words, the presence (real, imagined or implied) of others influences the way we think, feel and behave. Social psychology is concerned with the study and understanding of these relationships and influences.

Within it, many phenomena appear in the interrelation of people and in the perception that we have of them. Today we are going to talk about one of them: the MUM effect. We all love to share good news, and bad news? Does the same happen to them? We will see that later.

    What is the MUM effect?

    When we have to deliver bad newsIt is common for us to resist or distort them, or even to make them less negative. This happens even though we have nothing to do with such news.

    The reason is that we don’t want to be associated with the negative event, and therefore, to be seen as less attractive.

    The MUM effect occurs in the face of a wide variety of news, circumstances, and possible recipients. However, although this is a very common and validated effect, it is not a universal phenomenon. Think for example of television news; one has the feeling that they “always” convey bad news; or for example myths, rumors, etc.

    It seems then that the MUM effect is associated with situations in which the news affects their own well-being or that of the potential recipient.

    Why does this appear? its causes

    The MUM effect has to do in social psychology with reinforcement theories. Reinforcement theories (Lott and Lott, Byrne) speak to us attraction to people present or doing something that activates a condition, whether positive or negative.

    On the other hand, people, consciously or unconsciously, seek to please others, feel accepted, etc. It is a natural and human phenomenon, which occurs to preserve and improve self-esteem.

    In general, there are several concerns we can talk about that keep us or us from delivering bad news:

    • Concern for our own well-being, wanting to avoid a feeling of guilt.
    • Concern for the well-being of the recipient (Out of empathy) to receive bad news.
    • Use the situational rules as a guide to “do what needs to be done”.
    • Fear of being associated with bad news and therefore that we find less attractive.

    These four explanations have been demonstrated by scientific experimentation to explain the causes of the MUM effect. In this way, and in relation to the first point, concern for one’s own well-being, we speak of a fear of feeling guilty for having communicated something negative to someone.

    We can relate this to the “belief in a just world”, that is, to believe that injustices do not exist and that we all get what we deserve (Both good and bad). It would be a cognitive bias of the view of reality, which many people manifest.

    So communicating something that, apart from being bad, is unfair, would conflict with our beliefs about the world and could generate more of those feelings of guilt or even sadness. And of course, people tend to avoid feeling uncomfortable or sad.

    Concerns about reporting bad news

    Looking a little deeper into these concerns, we know that nor do we want the recipient to feel sad “because of us”, Even though it’s an irrational thought and we have nothing to do with the news. We are the simple sender, but nonetheless, when people are asked why they should or should not give good news or bad news, they usually focus their attention on the receiver.

    The MUM effect also happens when we make a common mistake: assuming the receiver won’t want to hear the bad news.

    Think for example of doctors; it has been found in some surveys that many believe that patients do not want to hear bad news. However, the latter claim to want to hear them.

    If you know the better the message, the more willing he will be to pass it on.. But it does not happen in the same way when the message is negative, because once it is bad; it does not matter whether it is to a greater or lesser extent, for the will to communicate it will always be low.

    Social rules and receptor in the MUM effect

    There are often no clear rules on what to do with bad news, whether to communicate it or not. It seems that when the news is good the rules are clearer than when the news is bad.

    In addition, very often, when we say bad news, there are consequences in the receiver (sadness, anger, anger …) that we will not always know how to manage. This can cause fear, in addition to the worry of not wanting to look like a handyman or intrusive.. To avoid feeling, we hide the bad news.

    The MUM effect is reduced when broadcasters know for sure that the recipient of the information (good or bad) wants to know. Thus, the fear or the worry of giving bad news dissipates and we end up expressing it without distorting it.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Tesser, A. and Rosen, S. (1975). Reluctance to pass on bad news. To L. Berkowitz (ed.). Progress in Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 8, pages 194-232. New York: Academic Press.
    • Hogg, MA (2010). Social psychology. VAUGHAN GRAHAM M. PANAMERICANA. Published by PANAMERICANA

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