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‘Machiavellian-like’ characters in Mean Girls hold the secret to teenage popularity

You can’t sit with us! Key to being a popular teenager is to mimic the ‘Machiavellian-like’ characters in Mean Girls, say psychologists

  • A mix of both aggression and affection is the key to being popular, study found
  • Bullies become popular through coercion, fun teens do same by being liked
  • But Florida-based academics advised that: ‘most popular are feared and loved’

Teenagers hankering to be popular among their classmates should use the ‘Machiavellian-like’ characters from Mean Girls as role models, psychologists have advised.

Their study concluded that the clique of high school girls known as the ‘plastics’ in the Lindsay Lohan blockbuster have grasped the secret to popularity – be both loved and feared.

Snapping between pangs of aggression and affection was found by Florida academics to boost one’s status in a classroom environment. 

Aggressive popular teens become and stay popular through coercion and bullish behaviour while outgoing and fun teens reach the same result through cooperation. 

Teenagers hankering to be popular among their classmates should use the ‘Machiavellian-like’ characters from Mean Girls as role models, psychologists have advised

But Professor Brett Laursen, from Florida Atlantic University, said: ‘Yet, if you ask any teenager about popularity, you will hear about a third group, who are described as Machiavellian-like.

‘The most popular are feared and loved.

‘Just like the Mean Girls in the iconic American teen comedy, this group of teens can be aggressive when needed and then quickly “make nice” to smooth out any ruffled feathers.’

He added: ‘Adolescents place a lot of emphasis on popularity and they are keenly aware of the difference between being liked and being popular.

‘If forced to choose, many opt for popularity.’

The 2004 film follows previously home-schooled Cady Heron befriend a group of girls known as the ‘plastics’ who relish being the most popular people on campus. 

Over a two-year period, researchers followed more than 560 secondary school pupils, with a median age of 13, where classmates identified those who were aggressive, prosocial, meaning outgoing, and both.

The 2004 film follows previously home-schooled Cady Heron befriend a group of girls known as the 'plastics' (pictured) who relish being the most popular people on campus

The 2004 film follows previously home-schooled Cady Heron befriend a group of girls known as the ‘plastics’ (pictured) who relish being the most popular people on campus

Results revealed three distinct groups of popular adolescents – prosocial popular, aggressive popular and bistrategic popular or Machiavellian.

The Machiavellian group had the highest level of popularity and were above average on physical and relational aggression, as well as on prosocial behaviour.

Researchers said such teens maintain their popularity by balancing forceful behaviour – needed to maintain power – with careful acts of kindness.

Prof Laursen said: ‘Bistrategic adolescents are noteworthy not only for their very high levels of popularity, but also for the way that they balance getting their way with getting along.

‘They were less prosocial than prosocial popular adolescents, but at the same time less physically and relationally aggressive than the aggressive popular adolescents.

‘These youth are truly Machiavellian, maintaining their popularity by off-setting the coercive behaviour required to maintain power with carefully calibrated acts of kindness.’

The study concluded that the clique of high school girls known as the 'plastics' in the Lindsay Lohan (second from right) blockbuster have grasped the secret to popularity - be both loved and feared

The study concluded that the clique of high school girls known as the ‘plastics’ in the Lindsay Lohan (second from right) blockbuster have grasped the secret to popularity – be both loved and feared

As expected, prosocial popular adolescents were well-liked and well-adjusted and aggressive popular adolescents were neither.

While Machiavellian-like teens were viewed by their peers as disruptive and angry but were otherwise well-adjusted.

Professor Amy Hartl, senior study author from FAU, said: ‘Prosocial popular adolescents are well-adjusted while aggressive popular adolescents are troubled on many fronts.

‘The prognosis for bistrategic popular youth is mixed.

‘Their well-adjusted social and emotional profile coupled with a moderate propensity for social dominance and rule breaking may prove good or bad depending on the environment, thus providing hope for positive long-term adjustment and concern for the same.’ 

WHAT ARE THE FIVE PERSONALITY TRAITS?

The ‘Big Five’ personality traits are openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

The Big Five personality framework theory uses these descriptors to outline the broad dimensions of people’s personality and psyche.

Beneath each broad category is a number of correlated and specific factors.

Here are the five main points: 

Openness – this is about having an appreciation for emotion, adventure and unusual ideas.

People who are generally open have a higher degree of intellectual curiosity and creativity.

They are also more unpredictable and likely to be involved in risky behaviour such as drug taking.

Conscientiousness – people who are conscientiousness are more likely to be organised and dependable.

These people are self-disciplined and act dutifully, preferring planned as opposed to spontaneous behaviour.

They can sometimes be stubborn and obsessive.

Extroversion – these people tend to seek stimulation in the company of others and are energetic, positive and assertive.

They can sometimes be attention-seeking and domineering.

Individuals with lower extroversion are reserved, and can be seen as aloof or self-absorbed.

Agreeableness – these individuals have a tendency to be compassionate and cooperative as opposed to antagonistic towards other people.

Sometimes people who are highly agreeable are seen as naive or submissive.

People who have lower levels of agreeableness are competitive or challenging.

Neuroticisim – People with high levels of neuroticism are prone to psychological stress and get angry, anxious and depressed easily.

More stable people are calmer but can sometimes be seen as uninspiring and unconcerned.

Individuals with higher neuroticism tend to have worse psychological well-being.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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