science of us

Am I Objectively Annoying?

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Earlier today, The Atlantic investigated a small corner of the psychology world that’s trying to figure out, in one researcher’s words, why “some people are just annoying.”

Certain individuals reliably tend to make others around them feel happy, relaxed, stressed, bored, angry, sad, calm, and/or enthusiastic, and the researchers describe this tendency as having an “affective presence.” We all have unique affective presences, although their strengths may vary. These are essentially our “emotional signatures,” and we radiate them wherever we go. According to the researchers, some may be more positive, while others may be more negative.

No one is quite sure where our affective presences emanate from, fortunately. As The Atlantic’s Julie Beck writes, our affective presence “may have to do with body language, or tone of voice, or being a good listener,” or all or none of the above, although for now it remains a mystery: “Exactly what people are doing that sets others at ease or puts them off hasn’t yet been studied.”

The more you read, the more curious you might be for a kind of printout of your own emotional signature. Would I want to know, though? Probably not.

Am I Objectively Annoying?