The study’s findings were published in the journal ‘Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.‘ According to a study conducted by the University of Waterloo, what happens in comedies and cartoons when a character has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other is not dissimilar to people’s impressions of reality.
The moral nature and goals of the supernatural beings are evident and were intended to emphasize the characters’ decision-making difficulty with hilarious outcomes. And when it comes to persons they see as good or bad, people have similar expectations.
Expectations regarding how good and bad people respond to requests were investigated by the researchers. The researchers wanted to know why the devil and demons are frequently shown as willing to grant unintentional pleas in movies and folktales, but angels are not.
Their research found that people’s perceptions of good and bad characters are influenced by their perceptions of regular people. “Our findings show that people expect good agents to be attentive to requests’ intentions, while wicked actors are expected to be relatively insensitive to these intentions,” said Ori Friedman, a developmental psychology professor at Waterloo and the study’s lead author.
“These findings impact people’s expectations concerning requests made to regular persons as well as supernatural agents,” Friedman continued. People have different notions about how being nice or bad influences other people’s decisions, according to the study.
People believe that evil people are unconcerned with anything that does not directly affect their goals. These findings back up prior studies by implying that at least some people’s everyday ideas about supernatural creatures are influenced by their perceptions of humans.
“One part of seeing someone as evil may be that we expect that individual to focus less on the intentions of others and more on the outcomes of people’s actions,” said Brandon Goulding, a Ph.D. candidate in developmental psychology and co-author of the study.
“However, we believe that a good person will assess what someone intended to do against what they actually did,” Goulding added. Five tests were used to investigate people’s expectations about good and bad agents.
In the study, 2,231 people read short stories about a protagonist’s request to a human or supernatural figure and then judged how likely it was to be granted. When the request was directed to a decent person, the ranking was based on whether the requester understood what they were asking for.
Even when they were confused and didn’t reflect the requester’s intentions, evil people were expected to grant requests.