How To Get Popular According To Psychology

harry potter psychology

Is being popular really that important? A lot of people would say yes. It’s not just about stroking one’s ego, it actually makes sense logically to try to be more popular. Popular people in society receive many advantages that less liked individuals never get. They’re often more successful in their careers, better paid, happier, and more romantically active. But what makes someone popular? From the outside looking in, the struggle of how to get popular can seem like a puzzle that just can’t be solved. These unpopular individuals often feel extremely saddened by their lack of popularity, and many psychologists admit that it’s an issue that patients bring up frequently.

Below are some facts from psychological studies that seem to indicate what makes people more popular. But before you read on, I have to warn you: Some of these things might not be what you expect. As it turns out, discovering what makes people popular can be just as depressing as the lack of popularity itself. I want to make it adamantly clear that while some of these points can be used to one’s advantage in the quest for popularity, other studies point to much more disturbing roots for popularity. This article is not meant to be a guide – merely an educational insight into the roots of popularity.

Be More Open Minded

One study from 2006 looked into popularity among adolescents, and they found some interesting results. They studied 185 adolescents to test the hypothesis that popularity was linked with high levels of concurrent psychosocial adaptation. But what is psychosocial adaptation? In broad terms, it’s the extent to which an individual can adapt their psychological viewpoint to their social environment. According to the study, “Results indicated that popular adolescents displayed higher concurrent levels of ego development, secure attachment and more adaptive interactions with mothers and best friends.” So, how does this answer the question of how to get popular? The study seems to suggest that popularity increases among those who can be more adaptive towards new social situations and their fluctuating relationships with friends and family. The study interviewed the subjects over many years, and they mostly obtained the data from interviews, asking questions like “Which ten of your friends would you most like to spend a Saturday night with?”

Don’t Try To Prove Yourself By Using Overt Aggression

That same study showed that popularity seemed to be linked with a “decrease in behaviors unlikely to be well-received by peers (e.g., hostile behavior with peers). This would suggest that for people wondering how to get popular, you should probably tone down your acts of overt aggression towards other peers. This may seem pretty obvious, as no one likes a bully. The researchers behind this study attributed this phenomenon to a “popularity-socialization” hypothesis, which is to say that popular adolescents are more likely to increase in behaviors that receive approval in the peer group. Obviously, not being aggressive towards others is met with approval in all social groups. But this hypothesis also raises a disturbing point…

Relational Aggression Might Actually Help…

The problem with the “popularity socialization” hypothesis is that it means that any act, even those that are immoral, are met with an increase in popularity as long as that act is met with widespread approval in the group. This could be smoking, alcohol consumption, or even illicit drug use. But perhaps the most disturbing act that can raise popularity is relational aggression. This idea was explored in a separate study of Greek children from grade 4 to 6. Relational Aggression is defined as “A type of aggression that is intended to harm others through deliberate manipulation of their social standing and relationships.” It’s basically the popular kids ruining people’s reputation by spreading rumors or other things of that nature. It’s the ugly side of popularity, so to speak. Amazingly, the study found that relational aggression was linked with an increase in popularity of both boys and girls. Again, the children were asked to estimate each other’s popularity to provide the results. Relational aggression was also linked with high social intelligence as well as overall popularity.

Rely On Social Media

When all else fails, rely on social media. That’s what one study seems to suggest is a good idea if you’re trying to figure out how to get popular. The study used Facebook in a very interesting way to test two hypotheses. The first is the Social Enhancement hypothesis, also knows as “Rich Get Richer.” In the context of popularity and Facebook, this hypothesis states that those who are more popular offline are able to use Facebook to become even more popular online. The other thing they tested was the Social Compensation hypothesis, the idea that the “Poor Get Richer” because they devote more time and effort towards making themselves more popular online. Previous studies found that there was more evidence for the social compensation hypothesis, meaning that “those with lower life satisfaction and lower self-esteem reported having developed more bridging social capital (instrumental links to diverse others) on Facebook™.”

The study emailed an online survey to University students at a Midwestern College to find their results. In the end, they found evidence to support both hypotheses, given that the majority of high self-esteem students (73.9%) were seen as popular, as well as the majority of low self-esteem students (61.8%). But the study also pointed out that social interaction on Facebook is not as grounded in reality as offline social interactions, so unpopular people have a better chance at increasing their popularity online than offline.

Younger Siblings Have An Advantage

Another interesting study about popularity looked at siblings. The researchers started off with the hypothesis that younger siblings have to develop more interpersonal skills, because they have less power in relation to their older sibling. If this is true, then the researchers expected them to be more popular. The study from 1976 surveyed 1,750 grade-school children, and also surveyed their teachers to find out their grades. They found that later born children (younger siblings) were more liked by their peers than older siblings. The results held around all ethnic backgrounds, age, and sex. When the researchers surveyed the teachers, they were told that the younger siblings had much more developed social skills.

Be Happy

This may seem like a pretty obvious thing to say, but simply being happy really helps those trying to figure out how to get popular. A recent study confirmed something very interesting about popularity. Popular people aren’t happy because they’re popular – they’re popular because they’re happy. This is an important distinction because it suggests that a positive outlook on life can make the right things happen for you, and that being optimistic can really help on your quest to become popular. The researchers found that “Positive affect–the hallmark of well-being–may be the cause of many of the desirable characteristics, resources, and successes correlated with happiness.” The researchers looked at many previous studies to come to their conclusions, such a study that found that those with a strong feeling of well-being are more likely to receive a callback after a job interview.

Keep Repeating Your Opinions, And They Will Become Popular

Most people have heard of the psychological phenomenon known as repetition bias. It’s the idea that if someone hears the same point of view repeated enough times, they start to see this as the correct and popular point of view. Politicians love to use this to their advantage, convincing people that the most ridiculous things are true, simply because they hear it echoed enough times in the news and from other people. However, a study from 2007 revealed that people are easily convinced that an idea is a popular one, even if they hear it from only one person. The researchers conducted 6 separate studies, with participants from several Universities.

Kimberlee Weaver, one of the lead researchers, revealed: “We found that although three people each expressing the same sentiment is more influential than one person expressing the same belief three times, the latter was, on average, still 90 percent of the former in terms of level of influence.” Basically, we’re constantly evaluating whether an opinion is a widely held one in the larger group, but for some reason we think that a repeated point of view is a commonly held one, even if it comes from just one person. So if you’re wondering how to get popular (or at least make your views popular), you might consider repeating you opinions again and again. Kimberlee Weaver admits that she’s not quite sure why this happens, and “Future research should explore this important question in more detail.”

Be More Attuned To Other People’s Popularity

There must be something unpopular people are doing wrong. Well one study seems to have found out what that is. The study was recently published in a 2015 edition of Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America. The researchers noticed one key difference between popular and unpopular students. The popular ones were better at spotting other popular people. They ran an experiment on 26 students from Columbia University, showing these students pictures of other members of the school clubs they were in. Those that were ranked as more popular showed “excited” neural activity when they saw other faces that had been ranked as more popular. They had no idea what the experiment was measuring, and they thought their job was to spot faces that weren’t part of any school club. This shows that popular people seem to recognize the social importance and status of other people, and are more sensitive to these subtle differences than other less popular individuals.

Be More Attractive

This is one of those things that’s sad but true. Attractive people tend to be a lot more popular, as a 2002 study confirmed. The study used 20 Sorority Sisters from a University to obtain their results. Those 20 students were evaluated based on their attractiveness by students from a nearby University. These 20 students were then observed in a college social setting, such as a social gathering at a bar, or an off campus party. The researchers observed how many times the subject was approached by other people, how many times they approached others, and whether the people they interacted with were male or female. They found that women who were more attractive were approached more often by males than females with lower attractiveness. But these more attractive women were approached equally by other women as the women of lower attractiveness. This study also pointed to earlier studies that show that kindergartners and preschoolers are more likely to be friendly towards other children who are ranked as being more attractive.

So how does this help people who want to know how to get popular? The short answer is that it doesn’t. Physical beauty is something that you’re born with, and you can’t control it. However, it does show just how important your image can be when it comes to how people see you and how popular you are. You may find that if you take a little bit more care with your appearance, your popularity will go up, as depressing as that sounds.


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  1. This article offers a lot of insight as to how the modern society works, especially for the younger people who are striving to make connections and improve their networking skills.
    It’s become important to look beyond one’s self and to reach out to others if they wished to climb higher on the social ladder. This brought on a new wave of social awareness and responsibility, especially among the younger generation.
    They are coming to realise that being popular is not just about knowing who to be friends with, but also how to gain friends. That requires being approachable, charisma, opinions worth listening to, and knowing how to get those opinions across to the right people.
    In regards to the statement about younger siblings being more popular due to having to vie for attention, I believe that younger siblings develop their social skills through observation of their older siblings. By having someone older to look up to, the younger sibling is able to observe what the older sibling does and does not do. If they see their older brother or sister punished for something, the younger sibling will refrain from making the same mistake, giving them a better idea on what to say or how to behave around other people. They learn from watching older people, and by making sure not to repeat their mistakes.
    It might not be so much about fighting for attention, although it could also be part of the reason, than it is simply knowing better by watching the older people around them that younger siblings have better social skills.

  2. This was a very interesting to read, especially for someone like me who has never been popular in their life.
    I school life the most loudest and agrassive people where always the popular ones.
    They would spread lies and secrets about others, disrespect and insult teachers or drink alcohol during class, and I could never really understand why anyone actually wanted to be friends with them since I found their behaviour so obnoxious.
    It never occurred that could relational aggression actually be one of the reasons WHY they are so popular. My thought was you just had to be pretty to be popular

    It was really fun to read this article revaluate my own school experience, the author put a lot of research in it. He asks very interesting questions and gives answers to them all, and I really like that. Also, the statistical examples about the relationship with social media was very intersting and underlines the importance of social media for ones popularity.
    The only tiny thing that botherd me was the repetition of “the reaserch” and ” the reaserchers”.
    Sill, the article is written very good and very interesting, with a lot of good examples.
    That’s all from me

  3. I like the introduction a lot. Many people don’t like to admit they strive for company and popularity, many even made themselves believe they like to be alone when in fact they only have up on trying to be popular since it is, obviously from the article, quite a complicated task. That’s why it is important to educate people on this topic – so they don’t waste a fraction of their lives on running from what they actually are.
    Oh and another sentence caught my attention: “(…) discovering what makes people popular can be just as depressing as the lack of popularity itself.” I understand what the author wanted to say, but I disagree. It can undeniably get a bit frustrating if this is one’s first time coming across this topic but the key is in understanding the mind and owning every “flaw” (in this case, need for approvment and popularity) in it. Just like myth of sisyphus – it can get depressing if you don’t deal with it and own it.

  4. This article is as interesting as it is relevant, with the growing use of social media, everyone wants to achieve some percentage of popularity. I like how everything is backed up with studies, and there are links so we can read the study as a whole. Although I do like your writing style, it would have been nice to have a concluding paragraph that just summed everything up? It would be interesting to see this being applied and the results that come from it too! Thanks for this, I may now go and apply some of these traits.

  5. This article offers a deep insight into how popularity can be produced – to a certain extent at least. Some of those mentioned traits do seem kind of obvious, such as attractiveness for example, or to be more precise what is considered attractive in different parts of the world.
    Other things, like a certain amount of aggressiveness, do not sit well with me. Don’t get me wrong, yes, there are people that are highly popular and show aggressiveness, but I also know that there are quite a number of people which are kind and polite and are still very popular with their peer group. Therefore I might want to mention that every study can be built to back up a certain hypothesis.
    Yes, tendencies are able to be read from the studies, but that is only a small percentage of the overall population that was tested for this purpose and then extrapolated.
    I consider this article to be very well written and I want to express a thank you to the author for wording this so very carefully as to not make it look like a “how to…” guide.

  6. I really liked the way this article was written, especially the interpretation of the informations given, and the links to the studies used !
    It would be interesting if future researches could confirm with adults the hypotheses they found true with children.
    Good job to the writer !

  7. Psychologically studying popularity is a curious idea, and some of these points surprised me quite a bit. I’d never heard of “relational aggression” so to find out that although normal aggression is frowned up (as is the case with bullying), it’s seen as normal to spread rumors about others. I was also surprised to see that open mindedness is related to best friends and mothers, but not fathers, and I’m now wondering why that is. It’s been said that your parents’ opinions help to form your own, but I guess it may have something to do with the fact that the mother is typically the one spending more time with children, especially in a patriarchal society.
    Overall, a good article, I’d just say to read more closely for typing errors, as I noticed a few while reading. They seemed like the type of error made when typing and editing quickly, so just take your time rereading an article before posting it.

  8. Hello! I thought this article has very unique content with an interesting angle. I have a few suggestions that would make this and future articles even better! Firstly, you don’t need to explain to the reader what the article is and isn’t saying- it defeats the purpose of even reading the article! Talking to the reader like they can’t read interrupts the voice of the article and just makes it awkward. Also, don’t be afraid to break up your paragraphs a bit more! As a reader I was quite intimidated by the big blocks of words. Lastly, try reading your article out loud before you publish it and you’ll find that there are quite a few unnecessary words that you can omit without changing the meaning of the piece. Great work!

  9. This article was interesting to read. I had never even thought of younger sisters having an impact on how popular you can be. The other things made since, being happy and attractive are the main things that I always associated popular people with. As for relational aggression, I had never even heard of that, but after reading it, it made a lot of since.

  10. Hmm I’ve never seen it like that. I’m quite shocked that if one person continuously expresses his opinions over and over again it is more likely to be believed by his peers around him which can benefit his popularity. But I like to believe that each and everyone of these facts all contribute to the ego really. Its almost as if, if one has a better way of controlling his ego development the more he or she is likely to be popular. I even believe after reading this article that ANYONE no matter their physical or mental appearance can indeed become popular. Its all depends on the ego.
    All in all this is a great article to read anywhere.

  11. Such an interesting article! The pictures are beautiful and they go so well with the items.
    I guess I’ve never seen popularity as something so complex, I think I always thought it was just about having more friends. I think it is sad that we, as a society, view attractive people as more approachable and even friendlier than less attractive people. I think it shows how we let ourselves be ruled by external appearances instead of really getting to know people. Maybe we encounter someone who is popular, charismatic and attractive but they became popular by being aggressive and manipulating others. Despite this I think that we all crave popularity in one way or another, as it makes us feel loved, validated and less alone so I understand, to some extent, why some people would get to such extreme measures in order to be popular, it can really do wonders for a person’s self-esteem.

  12. Popularity is a very complex issue and you broke it down into a very well written, well displayed article. Your diction was educational yet easily understandable. I appreciate how you used studies from a myriad of decades, as well as using studies that show differing age groups (and adding the links to such)- this helps solidify the validity of each point. Many of your points I can relate to on a personal level, and I really like how you displayed both arguments on relational aggression. This was a very interesting read, and an insightful evaluation of modern society. I hope to read more of your works in the future.

  13. This article seemed redundant in an effort to state what many people already knew. It was an informational article but the way I see it there was nothing groundbreaking said in this article. I would’ve liked to see something more low-key in an effort to really delve into popularity. It was a good read but left me wanting more.

  14. I think you made a mistake. Earlier born children are typically not considered younger siblings.

  15. I thought this article would have information that is not already known. All of these things are true but not hard to get. i wish it went more in detail. but on the other hand, i liked the pictures and it was a good read. Even though i didn’t learn anything new from it.