There is a popular school of thought that suggests that we become an average of the five people we spend the most time with. Of course, here’s a bit of who-first logic? The hen or the egg. We are generally attracted to people who share our own values, passions, and lifestyle choices. We choose to spend time with people we love and respect, and by doing so we hope to know their positive qualities, however, we do not always reaffirm that good thing that the other person has about us, getting together with people with very marked negative traits can even become that too.

Getting together with people like that could infect you

A study in France found that certain undesirable personality traits – specifically laziness, impatience, and excessive risk aversion – can, in fact, be contagious.

These three traits may seem like an arbitrary assortment, but they actually have a lot to do with each other. Specifically, they are all strong motivators when it comes to making decisions. In fact, they are three of the most common reasons why people do not do their best for themselves and others.

Laziness prevents us from dedicating ourselves to hard work. Impatience prevents us from making wise decisions. Excessive risk aversion can prevent us from setting and achieving ambitious goals.

As a result, choosing to spend time with people who accept these qualities can prevent us from reaching our full potential.

Rather, hanging out with hard-working people , delaying gratification, and taking risks with a balanced sense of wisdom and courage can help us develop these qualities in their own right. The greatest rewards in life often involve risk, patience, and, of course, a lot of hard work. Developing a good attitude toward these ideals can be crucial to success.

Being lazy, impatient and fearful of risks is hard to change

Until now, these three personality traits have been considered “ingrained” traits, meaning they are difficult to change, explained Jean Daunizeau, a team leader in the motivation, brain and behavior group at the Brain and Spine Institute (ICM). in Paris and lead author of the study. Until now, the scientific community has thought that these three traits are at least partially genetic.

Researchers previously believed that these attitudes should be immune to environmental influences, such as social influence, especially in adulthood. However, the results of this research suggest that this may not be the case. According to Daunizeau, it is quite possible for people to subconsciously align their attitudes regarding these traits to align with those around them .

The study was conducted with fifty-six healthy participants, each completing a series of tasks. In each task, they were asked to choose between two alternatives, for example, a smaller payment now or a larger one later, or a small safe payment versus a riskier large one. Then, they were asked to guess what someone else’s decision would be on a similar task. After making their own choice, the participants were told how the “other person” had responded. However, the other person was actually fictitious: their decisions were based on a computer model that the researchers had developed. This model was designed to reflect the way people learn and are influenced by the choices of others.. Finally, the participants were asked to repeat the original task.

After the participants had absorbed the attitudes of the computer model, their own choices began to reflect what they had seen. If they observed that the participants in the computer model were lazy, impatient, or risk-averse, they began to act in the same way. The opposite dynamic also held true. In essence, the study participants began to mimic the behaviors that they thought they had observed in other people.

How Socially Contagious Behaviors Work

There are two possible explanations, both of which probably contribute to this effect.

First of all, it is in our nature as human beings to want to fit in with our peers. Our need for social conformity and acceptance is based on evolutionary need, and it’s hard to remove even from our most intentional and personal decision-making. It is quite possible that we can unconsciously alter these important personal traits to reflect the attitudes of our social environment.

Another explanation is that we imitate the behavior of others because we trust their ability to make wise decisions. If everyone around us makes a certain choice, we suspect they have a good reason to do so. When our decision differs from the group, we may wonder if they have information, education or experience that we do not have.

“I maintain that a strongly marked personality can influence descendants for generations,” wrote Beatrix Potter. What kind of behavioral imprint are you leaving on your peers? What impact do they have on your decisions? Are you choosing the right friends?

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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