If you’ve ever wondered why you sometimes feel closer to a friend who is slightly meaner to you, yet for some reason they make you feel extremely comfortable, then trust your gut. Friends that can be brutally honest, mean, and cause negative feelings are the ones who actually care about you the most, according to science, and you should keep them around.
If you ever had a close friend who made you feel uncomfortable about a situation you might be in and you feel that the way they are treating you is insensitive, then maybe they are doing it on purpose. According to research published in the Association for Psychological Science, some close friends can purposely impose negative feelings on their beloved best friends because they believe that those negative feelings will be beneficial for them in the long run. And the real reason they make you feel this way is because they care.
Belén López-Pére, the leading scientist who conducted the research, explains how people can become cruel in order to be kind and that making someone feel worse in a bad situation comes from a good place.
Their basic hypothesis was to encourage the participants of the research to imagine being in someone else’s situation and predicting how they would react if they were in their shoes. The researchers assumed that the participants would choose the most negative experience in order to teach and help the individuals learn and reach their goals.
In order to test their hypothesis, they enlisted 140 individual adults to take part in a lab study which involved co-playing a computer game with an anonymous partner (known as “Player A”) and they were “Player B.” However, what they didn’t know was that “Player A” didn’t really exist.
Right before the game started, they all received a note from “Player A” saying that he went through a break-up and was heartbroken. Then, the participants were asked to imagine how Player A felt and play the game as if Player A was the protagonist. During this study, some of the participants were asked to sympathize with how “Player A” felt, while the rest of the participants were asked to remain emotionally detached.
Then, the participants were split into 2 separate teams. Half of them were playing a first-person shooter game called Soldier of Fortune where their purpose was to get rid of as many enemies as they could. The other half were asked to play a first-person game called Escape Dead Island where their purpose was to escape a room filled with zombies.
After the game finished, the participants were exposed to certain music and clips with descriptions that had different levels of emotional subject matter. Then, they were asked at which level between 1-7 they wanted their co-players (Player A) to listen and read the description of each of those clips.
The results indicated that the participants who sympathized with Player A’s feelings tried to generate strong emotions in their co-player that were contingent to the whole purpose of the game. To be more specific, participants sympathized with “Player A’s” emotions and played the first-person shooter game focused on generating more anger in their “co-player” through the music and video clips they chose to expose them to. In addition, participants who played the first-person zombie game focused on creating more fear into their co-player by choosing the most emotional music and clips to show them.
This research reached the conclusion that people who empathized with Player A wanted to generate stronger negative emotions as a way of shadowing the feelings of hurt they might have because of their heartbreak. In addition, the stronger negative emotions during the game suggested a higher success rate at the end of the video which means that Player A felt a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when they won.