The science of being ‘nice’: how politeness is different from compassion. New research shows distinct situations in which compassionate and/or...


The science of being ‘nice’: how politeness is different from compassion. New research shows distinct situations in which compassionate and/or polite people will show generosity. This provides important insight into how we understand “nice” people. [x-post from our sister sub /r/everythingscience]



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  • This insight might be very interesting for those who have visited South Korea. Koreans are notorious for their lack of politeness to strangers, the biggest example being how people don’t say sorry after bumping into others in public. Another example is not bothering to hold doors for others. But once you are a proper acquaintance, they become insanely kind and giving.

  • Minnesota! AKA The Canadian welcome mat.

  • Nice is a generalized word.

    There’s Pleasantness, Amiability, Affability, Friendliness, Politeness, Courteousness, Geniality, generosity. ETC. All with slightly different meanings.

    Polite means you follow rules of behavior for instance, while courtesy means you put thought into the behavior.

  • kinda like, how i won’t give a beggar money, but i would grab your shirt at the cross walk to stop you getting run over?

  • Nell Noddings has written some great articles about the concept of differentiating Apparent care from Authentic care, with particular regard for its ramifications in teaching.

    …. in case you’re interested.

  • I have found most nice people to be secretly(and sometimes not so secretly) not very nice.

  • I’m generally considered to be a polite person but I’m a misanthrope at heart. I treat others well hoping to get the same in return but there are very few people who I care about.

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  • I really want to know the difference but I’m too lazy to click the link and read the article/study

  • Just from reading the title I couldn’t help but think of that song from Into the Woods where Red sings:

    “And take extra care with strangers,
    Even flowers have their dangers,
    And though scary is exciting,
    Nice is different than good”

    What have I done, now it will be stuck in my head all night.

  • Unfortunately, I can see this insight giving way to exploitation.

  • Being “polite” is mostly a regional set of rules. People generally respect you if you follow them,but they may not have much of a real world impact. Compassion is a genuine feeling.

  • Probably off topic, but this reminds me of a song in one of my favorite plays, *Into The Woods, The Last Midnight*

    You’re so nice

    You’re not good

    You’re not bad

    You’re just nice

    I’m not good

    I’m not nice

    I’m just right

    I’m the witch

    You’re the world

    I’m a hitch

    I’m what no one believes

    I’m the witch

    You’re all liars and thieves

    Like his father

    Like his son will be, too

    Oh, why bother?

    You’ll just do what you do
    ~end

    At least you know what you’ll get with a witch. A witch is a witch. You don’t always know what you’ll get from someone who’s acting nice and polite. It can be a form of stalking, grooming, feeling a person out, and so on. Not with a witch. She is what she is. No surprises. A witch is predictable. Nice polite people aren’t always predictable.

  • “Not compassionate, only polite. Now who the nicest?”

  • Big Kudos for linking to the original post and not blatantly steal the original link, OP!

  • I’m nice, but I’m an asshole. I want the best for everyone around me, but I’m not willing to put any effort towards their well-being.

  • Have to say that I am surprised politeness is associated with conservatives and compassion with liberals. I would have thought the opposite.

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