Editor’s note: Article contains mild profanity.
The survey found that middle-age men were frequently considered to be a**holes, along with people survey participants knew personally, such as exes, old bosses and estranged family members. Also included were co-workers, friends and even current significant others.
“I was surprised at the variety of behaviors individuals reported as characteristic of a**holes,” said psychology graduate student Brinkley Sharpe, the lead reseracher. “Specifically the range of severity from minor inconsiderate actions to violent behavior that seems beyond ‘asshole’ to me.”
When asked what inspired her to pursue the topic, Sharpe told Headline USA via email that she was intrigued by some previous research by her co-authors.
“Although research on personality traits has a strong basis in the the idea that the words we use to describe ourselves and others convey important characteristics (i.e. the lexical hypothesis), insults have not traditionally been included in these studies,” Sharpe said.
“We believe that this has been an oversight!” she added. “This article specifically built-off previous research conducted by some of my co-authors which identified ‘asshole’ as common insult used for both men and women, so we decided that was a good place to start.”
The study surveyed 397 participants via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform.
Participants were asked to respond to statements like “think of the ‘biggest asshole’ you know personally where you have directly experienced the person’s negative behaviors” and to report how much difficultly they had in identifying the person on a scale of one to five.
Using the five-factor model of personality—which measures extroversion vs. introversion, neuroticism vs. emotional stability, open-mindedness vs. close-mindedness, agreeableness vs. antagonism, and conscientiousness vs. disinhibition—people answered questions about the a-holes in their lives and researchers extrapolated what traits they exemplified the most.
The behaviors most associated with a-holes include carelessness, lack of concern for others and high amounts of neuroticism.
“People didn’t really have very much trouble figuring out who the ‘biggest asshole’ in their life was,” said Sharpe.