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Sunday, September 16, 2012

[Psych] Social allergy effect

Now this is quite interesting. We all understand 'allergy' to be a reaction to some sort of food (eg. nuts) or environment (eg. dust, pollen) and that the reaction manifests on the physical body as rashes, itches and so on. Do you know that this word is also applied in social relationships?

The social allergy effect occurs when a person's annoying habits grow worse over time, instead of growing more fond of his or her idiosyncrasies. This can apply to both people and things (which might be why the more we listen to construction, the more annoyed we get). Or maybe why you get increasingly annoyed when anime character(s) you dislike keep popping out and result in less screen time for your bias.

This is in contrast to the mere exposure effect/familiarity principle: the more we are exposed to it, the more we come to like it (mainly because you get to spend more time together, and find out more about each other and common topics etc...).

So what does this mean in relationships?

As seen in this article, relatively minor habits can get in the way of relationships and potentially damage them. So it would be good to consider carefully whether to be really close to someone who has habits who annoy you (like getting married). Research also shows that old habits die hard (not impossible to change, just really really hard), so you might want to re-consider getting the other party to change.

But for this to actually happen, you will have to
1) really hate that particular habit
2) be exposed to this habit and get annoyed by it at a pretty high frequency (see how it's more likely to happen with spouses than with friends?)

And of course, knowing helps to manage emotions to some extent.
Straight, or bent?
One thing to be careful is that knowing does not dispel its effect. Just like the above visual illusion, knowing that the lines are straight does not remove the optical illusion (you still see bent lines). Even if you know you're over-reacting (because of social allergy effect), you can't always stop feeling that over-reaction.

But hey! At least now you know that there might be -some- truth when the other party says something along the lines of 'you have not reacted this badly before' :P