# The Psychology of Jerks

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Does anyone know if there's a book or something that explains why some people are rude or arrogant or insulting or condescending or anything like that? It's not that I actually know anyone like that right now, I just thought it would be good to know why some people are mean when I meet them. I assume it has something to do with how they were treated as children; not that that excuses their behavior. Anyone know of anything like that? Thanks in advance.

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Well when a person hurts someone they are preventing that someone from doing anything that is detrimental to the person. So it is a survival of the fittest type arraingment

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Does anyone know if there's a book or something that explains why some people are rude or arrogant or insulting or condescending or anything like that? It's not that I actually know anyone like that right now, I just thought it would be good to know why some people are mean when I meet them. I assume it has something to do with how they were treated as children; not that that excuses their behavior. Anyone know of anything like that? Thanks in advance.

Most likely fear of something, a survival mechanism.

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jerks/Bullies

same thing really.

and since theres quite a Movement now against Bullying (esp in schools etc...) there should be a whole plethora of book available about this.

even websites dedicated to the topic.

Googling "jerks" wont get you results, try googling "Bullies" instead, Trust me!

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From what I gather most jerkyness(not a real word) is caused by peer pressure. The want to be accepted makes people do strange things including being a jerk. Then you have the people with actual physiological disorders. One of the most common being an inferiority complex these people feel inferior to everyone and often over compensate, try to make them self’s feel superior by outing others down or even engaging in physical violence. Also theirs the abused children they never learned proper social behavior some wind up jerks others are fine still others end up sucking there thumb in a corner. Then agene some people are just jerks the human mind can defy logic if it wants to,

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Does anyone know if there's a book or something that explains why some people are rude or arrogant or insulting or condescending or anything like that?
If you do find anything definitive about this subject be careful of generalizations. Jerkiness is in the eye of the beholder. You may think someone is being rude to you when they are merely being abrupt due to lack of time. One person's pride is another person's arrogance. And insults can be perceived from an infinite amount of sources.

We tend to want to categorize people into groups, like jerks, idiots, drunks, helpful, nice, skillful. It helps us quickly make judgments but makes it difficult to get beyond first impressions. Remember that everything we do is done in context. There's a whole story behind the actions of every person.

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True, and the reasons why the original question is difficult to answer are that: 'Jerk' is not a defined personality type and I think everybody is rude or arrogant or insulting (deliberately or otherwise) or condescending at some time according to somebody. So the question boils down to 'why are people people'? There's quite a lot of research on that.

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• 1 month later...

Ive found people tend to be jerks for two reasons: Superiority complex (as in my case) or the opposite, an inferiority complex.

The two often manifest in different ways however; those with superiority complexes tend to be mean in a better-than-you passive agressive manner, while inferiority complexes tend to be the "Lashing out at the world" type of jerk.

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• 2 weeks later...
Does anyone know if there's a book or something that explains why some people are rude or arrogant or insulting or condescending or anything like that? It's not that I actually know anyone like that right now, I just thought it would be good to know why some people are mean when I meet them. I assume it has something to do with how they were treated as children; not that that excuses their behavior. Anyone know of anything like that? Thanks in advance.

Think back to the last time you where rude or arrogant or insulting or condescending and try and work out why.

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• 1 month later...

How about being a jerk as the result of a philosophical dilemma? Maybe people are jerks because they realize that none truly love or respect them. For instance, a person may think that others like them because they are beautiful or they may think that people want to be in their presence because of need?

I also think that some people cannot prevent themselves from saying what is on their mind. Being a jerk can be a reaction to the perceived stupidity of others and not having the ability to remain calm or speaking appropriately because of a lack of understanding.

Like another poster stated, behavior occurs within context. Sometimes people do not have a grasp on mores and other times differences between culture can affect how people interact and are perceived. Sometimes we think we can be friendly with another but we don't realize that that person does not know us well enough to accept "our kind" of friendliness as it is intended.

Bullies are usually the result of having the power to act. If weakness is seen in others, it is natural to overpower. It takes effort to prevent yourself from harassing others.

Having to inflict injury on others to reduce ones own pains cannot be classified as being a bully or a jerk. I think it is more serious than the other examples I have provided.

I think that the main quality of a jerk is having the intent to manipulate others, use, and even abuse people without regard.

A good analysis of interaction with cross cultural research will shed some light .

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I think we still need to define 'jerk'. it's going to be hard to reach a concensus for as long as jerk means different things to different people. It's like trying to explain why some people are gits.

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Jerk is a subjective description of a person engaging in a suite of actions (and more often reactions) that are perceived in particular manner. The key words here are subjective and perceived (as Phi for All suggested).

The kind of actions that may be interepreted as those of a jerk likely cover a large part of the spectrum of human behaviour. As such almost any book or research paper on human behaviour will touch on aspects of 'jerkiness', but it will take careful reading (with an open mind) to identify which are relevant.

My own observation is that in 90% of case when someone calls someone a jerk what they are actually saying is 'this person's behaviour is at odds with what I think is right and proper, and I don't like them much.' An objective assessment of the situation that has generated the characterisation typically reveals as much blame on the side of the name caller.

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Phi for All and Ophiolite make the best points on this one.

I'm thinking of the kind of Jerk like the character Dr. House. Some might think House is cool and efficient for circumventing social norms and irreverance to people's feelings and so forth. Even under the blanket protection and control of writing the script and controlling the dynamics of characters this proves to be BS. A little social reverance could actually save a lot of time. He has to waste countless moments trying to repair damage by being "socially efficient" with a sobbing parent or troubled co-worker.

Anyway, since I think he makes a great universal "jerk", let me just use him as an example.

A jerk of this magnitude defines himself by being contrary. He requires the rest of us to be social sheep, so that he can be irreverant. If we were all logical, non-feeling, irreverant people with no use for social niceties and diplomacy with one another, then he'd have to be something entirely different. Because he has to be contrary - and pretend like we're all stupid for being what he needs us to be.

I wonder if the jerks you've encountered in your life are really just fairly intelligent people that forgot that their intelligence was as given to them as stupidity is given to others.

Anyway, I like the show House, but have been looking for an excuse to tear the character down...maybe I'm a jerk??

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First, when I think of the term “Jerk” I think more along the lines of Steve Martin’s classic character in “The Jerk.” Just thinking of the move makes me grin.

With respect to the jerk you are describing, I think their primary problem is that they are inconsiderate. If you know such a person and have time to observe them, you will find the following behavior.

1) They stop at the end of an escalator and are upset when asked to move.

2) They never hold a door open for someone else, either before or after they have entered.

3) They never give up there seat to someone less able then themselves.

4) They take their time when being served even if the queue behind them is long.

5) They never say excuse me or I’m sorry when they bump into someone.

6) etc.

The above lack of basic manners is not due to some internal malice towards others. Others simply don’t exist in there internal dynamics. Since they don’t exist, they don’t need to be considered. Hence, such people are inconsiderate. The reason they are rude in social situations is that at such times others must be considered. You are upsetting them because you are upsetting their world view which only has them in it.

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I wonder if the jerks you've encountered in your life are really just fairly intelligent people that forgot that their intelligence was as given to them as stupidity is given to others.

No, there are a lot of jerks that I've met that were not fairly intelligent at all. I'm not really sure that you can define a jerk since it is often based on personal taste rather than any defined set of behaviors.

I do have to say though that people who are malicious toward other people just for the sake of it would qualify as a jerk. Why some people are like that is beyond me.

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My own observation is that in 90% of case when someone calls someone a jerk what they are actually saying is 'this person's behaviour is at odds with what I think is right and proper, and I don't like them much.'

So, jerks find others to be jerks?

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First, when I think of the term “Jerk” I think more along the lines of Steve Martin’s classic character in “The Jerk.” Just thinking of the move makes me grin.

With respect to the jerk you are describing, I think their primary problem is that they are inconsiderate. If you know such a person and have time to observe them, you will find the following behavior.

1) They stop at the end of an escalator and are upset when asked to move.

2) They never hold a door open for someone else, either before or after they have entered.

3) They never give up there seat to someone less able then themselves.

4) They take their time when being served even if the queue behind them is long.

5) They never say excuse me or I’m sorry when they bump into someone.

6) etc.

The above lack of basic manners is not due to some internal malice towards others. Others simply don’t exist in there internal dynamics. Since they don’t exist, they don’t need to be considered. Hence, such people are inconsiderate. The reason they are rude in social situations is that at such times others must be considered. You are upsetting them because you are upsetting their world view which only has them in it.

true

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Phi for All and Ophiolite make the best points on this one.

I'm thinking of the kind of Jerk like the character Dr. House. Some might think House is cool and efficient for circumventing social norms and irreverance to people's feelings and so forth. Even under the blanket protection and control of writing the script and controlling the dynamics of characters this proves to be BS. A little social reverance could actually save a lot of time. He has to waste countless moments trying to repair damage by being "socially efficient" with a sobbing parent or troubled co-worker.

Anyway, since I think he makes a great universal "jerk", let me just use him as an example.

A jerk of this magnitude defines himself by being contrary. He requires the rest of us to be social sheep, so that he can be irreverant. If we were all logical, non-feeling, irreverant people with no use for social niceties and diplomacy with one another, then he'd have to be something entirely different. Because he has to be contrary - and pretend like we're all stupid for being what he needs us to be.

I wonder if the jerks you've encountered in your life are really just fairly intelligent people that forgot that their intelligence was as given to them as stupidity is given to others.

Anyway, I like the show House, but have been looking for an excuse to tear the character down...maybe I'm a jerk??

Permit me to be a jerk and tell you what I really think of your ideas. I think you're the exact thing that you oppose in Dr. House. For instance you say that Phi for All and Ophiolite make the best points, but you don't quote or refer to them nor do you criticise the ideas put forth by others. It is a clever way to elevate yourself above everyone engaged in this discussion by putting two people slightly below you and others below them. Instead of simply making your statements you throw in this tidbit before anything else. Then you continue to state that jerks are actors, playing a role for its significance so that they can stand out in a group. Is that really what a jerk is? If others didn't annoy that person they would not do what they do. They may flatter themselves but I doubt it is an act. I think they do not recognize that "umms" and "what do i think about that" allow people to think and they would do the same things if they were not so intent on badgering others for their use. The problem is that they do not understand others or are trying desperately to prevent themselves from succumbing as they do not have the power to engage and maintian themselves, not that they are expecting others to play sheep. The self flattery develops into an act as they see themselves above others and they continue to seek such groupings and when among similar others they talk about how others are fools. You end by stating that you have been looking for an excuse to tear down the character of Dr. House. Most people I hear talk like that sit in starbucks sipping coffee and pretend they're working on their screenplays. No self respecting person would do the things you have done in this one post.

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Permit me to be a jerk and tell you what I really think of your ideas. I think you're the exact thing that you oppose in Dr. House. For instance you say that Phi for All and Ophiolite make the best points, but you don't quote or refer to them nor do you criticise the ideas put forth by others. It is a clever way to elevate yourself above everyone engaged in this discussion by putting two people slightly below you and others below them.

Actually, I just liked their posts - more logical and practical. Sounds more like the truth, to me. I saw no need to reference anyone else's because I have no desire to "debate" with anyone. Just wanted to say I liked their POV's. Actually, yours is good too, and it seems your conscience is giving you away here...

And you're also doing what my wife does....if I say "that girl is pretty", then she says "Oh, and I'm not?". See the insecurity there? I didn't say everyone else in the thread is beneath me - believe me, they know better. I said I though Ophi and Phi made the best points - I still do.

(psst..you do realize that statement puts me under as well right? of course you do...)

Then you continue to state that jerks are actors, playing a role for its significance so that they can stand out in a group. Is that really what a jerk is? If others didn't annoy that person they would not do what they do. They may flatter themselves but I doubt it is an act. I think they do not recognize that "umms" and "what do i think about that" allow people to think and they would do the same things if they were not so intent on badgering others for their use.

I didn't say jerks are actors. I used the character Dr. House since, to me anyway, he's a good example of a universal jerk. I think most would agree he is a jerk of at least some degree. The OP refers to jerks open ended without any clear definition. I thought it would be fun. Gee was I wrong.

The problem is that they do not understand others or are trying desperately to prevent themselves from succumbing as they do not have the power to engage and maintian themselves, not that they are expecting others to play sheep. The self flattery develops into an act as they see themselves above others and they continue to seek such groupings and when among similar others they talk about how others are fools.

Ok, cool. So that's your take on it. I think you're describing yourself here. I think I described you when I tore down Dr. House, and you've taken offense. Like I said, your conscience is speaking volumes here. Otherwise, why so upset?

You end by stating that you have been looking for an excuse to tear down the character of Dr. House.

Yes, that's the really the whole childish point of my post. House is a jerk, so I thought it would be fun to tear him up in this thread that wasn't narrowed too much to begin with. Relax.

Most people I hear talk like that sit in starbucks sipping coffee and pretend they're working on their screenplays. No self respecting person would do the things you have done in this one post.

Starbucks? Non self respecting things? Are you sure you read my post?

Look, House is a TV character - not a real guy. And I think you're taking my post too far so that you can use your intellect to make believe I deserve a thrashing and commence. Who's the jerk here?

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I'm glad you replied. Nothing I've stated demonstrates my low self esteem any more than what you stated would demonstrate your inflated ego. My statements didn't reflect that, it is only your assumption due to your initial post and my reply, while your statements being incomplete did demonstrate that. I'm glad you didn't take any offense and can reason my reply but sometimes that can simply be a way of reducing things to avoid the truth.

Your compliments to Phi and Ophi does imply that you are above them and your indifference toward others, hence you deliver the compliment as you do.

You did state that "jerk" are playing a game, hence my referring to them as actors. I actually like what you said because it clarifies a feeling that I have had as well.

I think what really made me mad was you last statement about stupidity being a given. I feel like strangling people who do this to others. It belittles others and torments them by putting pressure on them. I think people should be more considerate of others, but I know they can only do so to the extent of their awareness. That would suggest that their actions are more indicative of their mentality than others.

As for your wife feeling badly when you compliment others. Maybe that should clue you in on your approach. We often other people understand our position, but if we don't make it clear to them it isn't their fault to assume otherwise. I am sure she would not be mad unless your emotions suggest to her that you are insulting her or you haven't demonstrated to her that you love her. Sometimes being straightforward and not expounding on our thoughts could facilitate paranoia. One thing we have to realize is that there should be no dominance or winners, both people work toward clarifying a situation. If it was inadvertent, you should feel bad that she feels bad. But, do you? What do you think that suggests? I know many losers who like to play games with people, but that doesn't make the others lesser, it only suggests that the other doesn't understand what they are doing. I am not able to determine your , only you can do that, but I do justify my thoughts.

I'm glad we can criticize each others arguments. But believe me, I have little problems with self esteem. I am having a research paper published in June on the destructive nature of hate. I have realized that it is self destructive. I am also currently working on another research paper directly related, about value of respect. I doubt anyone can threaten me or can easily make me self conscious. However, I would never flatter myself with my position nor amuse myself with my knowledge. I've realized others are equally capable as myself and I know that the only way to help people is to empower them. I guess that would suggest why I was angry at you. I don't have the low self esteem that it would require to establish myself over others. I chose to love people rather compete with them. Anyway, I hope you can take all of this with a little bit of sugar. I truly enjoy it.

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I'm glad you replied. Nothing I've stated demonstrates my low self esteem any more than what you stated would demonstrate your inflated ego.

My post was not about me, you or directed to me or you or anyone else. You demonstrated your own psyche by over reacting to a post about a TV character.

My statements didn't reflect that, it is only your assumption due to your initial post and my reply, while your statements being incomplete did demonstrate that. I'm glad you didn't take any offense and can reason my reply but sometimes that can simply be a way of reducing things to avoid the truth.

Your statements were assumptions. You assumed an intent based on one sentence. I pointed that back at you to make a point and you missed it. Typical of presumptuous intellectuals.

Your compliments to Phi and Ophi does imply that you are above them and your indifference toward others, hence you deliver the compliment as you do.

You have inferred a negative from a positive. I say "X" is good, you infer that "Y" is therefore bad. That speaks more about you than anything else. I didn't say Phi and Ophi made great points, so that you could then infer that everyone else is "beneath them, and everyone in the room is beneath me" - that's an irrational stretch, and quite disturbing actually. By your logic, every compliment by anyone, is actually a loaded partition of those worthy and those not. And by that logic, I can't win - so I won't bother.

No, I referred to their posts because they both made points that I agree with, immensely. Phi made the point that “jerk” is the eye of the beholder – pride vs. arrogance, or efficient communication due to lack of time. Ophi made the same point, whom also referenced Phi’s post, and I particularly liked his last paragraph. I saw no reason to retype and re-post what they already posted and stated much better than I could. So, I chose to “high five” them before I went off on my Dr. House analysis.

You have misinterpreted by a country mile. And you never had a need to think otherwise. You opened this up as an excuse to attempt to dazzle others with your supposed insight – a tool of the arrogant. I had no interest in debating anyone – until now.

You did state that "jerk" are playing a game, hence my referring to them as actors. I actually like what you said because it clarifies a feeling that I have had as well.

I did not. I said "DR. HOUSE" - again...a TV character - needs us to be normal "sheeple" so that he can be contrary. If it clarifies a feeling you have had as well, then why give me slack over it? Makes no sense.

You also have not taken notice that I analyzed a fictional character, rather than an actual person. I would think a psychologist, or someone pursuing a major in such, would notice that. Can you demonstrate your wit and insight and tell us why I chose a fictional character over an actual person?

I think what really made me mad was you last statement about stupidity being a given. I feel like strangling people who do this to others. It belittles others and torments them by putting pressure on them. I think people should be more considerate of others, but I know they can only do so to the extent of their awareness. That would suggest that their actions are more indicative of their mentality than others.

I wasn't clear enough in that statement. Let me explain. Some of the smart people I've met in my life seem to have this attitude where everyone is stupid to them. They shake their heads because someone can't do algebra. Or they scoff at someone who has a hard time understanding something. They carry themselves as if THEY are responsible for their intelligence. They are not. They are responsible for their knowledge, not the potential to gain it.

So, my statement was directed at those who haven't considered that their intelligence is given - via genetics. In other words...there is no need to run around thinking you're better than everyone else because you're more intelligent - that was a gift you had no part in. It's what you do with it now, that counts. Shame should follow those who judge stupidity irreverant to that fact.

Sorry I didn't explain myself very well. Does that clear things up a bit?

As for your wife feeling badly when you compliment others. Maybe that should clue you in on your approach.

No, I will not change my approach. You missed my point...again. Just like up above, it is illogical to infer a negative from a positive. When I say "She is pretty" - that does NOT mean "You are therefore ugly". Do you get that?

You have done that quite shamelessly. Now the question is...will you learn from it?

I shouldn't reply to this, but I don't like being misunderstood. Yes, of course I feel bad. Insecurity is not a shameful character flaw. She's had a rough life, many reasons to be the way she is, and she's an amazing person despite it all. Anyone who learns of her past is amazed she is as functional and "normal" as she is - I know I am everyday. But not recognizing insecurity when it flares up doesn't do anybody any favors. That's why I point it out, and we laugh about it. She does the same to me as I'm probably more insecure than her.

I'm glad we can criticize each others arguments. But believe me, I have little problems with self esteem. I am having a research paper published in June on the destructive nature of hate. I have realized that it is self destructive. I am also currently working on another research paper directly related, about value of respect. I doubt anyone can threaten me or can easily make me self conscious.

Who said anything about your self esteem? Who exactly are you talking to here? Your conscience speaking again?

Look, you wanted to take me to task on a post directed at no one other than a fictional TV character that you later admit you kind of agree with. I wish I could agree that you have no self esteem issues. Your arrogance seems a little contrived to me, certainly presumptuous without experience.

Perhaps you should gain a little more knowledge and humility before you try reading people based on one post??

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Nothing I've stated demonstrates my low self esteem.

But believe me, I have little problems with self esteem.

I don't have the low self esteem that it would require to establish myself over others.

ok, OK, OKAY... we believe you. Enough already! *sheesh*

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Originally Posted by robot_monkey

Your compliments to Phi and Ophi does imply that you are above them and your indifference toward others, hence you deliver the compliment as you do.

You have inferred a negative from a positive. I say "X" is good, you infer that "Y" is therefore bad. That speaks more about you than anything else. I didn't say Phi and Ophi made great points, so that you could then infer that everyone else is "beneath them, and everyone in the room is beneath me" - that's an irrational stretch, and quite disturbing actually. By your logic, every compliment by anyone, is actually a loaded partition of those worthy and those not. And by that logic, I can't win - so I won't bother.

No, I referred to their posts because they both made points that I agree with, immensely. Phi made the point that “jerk” is the eye of the beholder – pride vs. arrogance, or efficient communication due to lack of time. Ophi made the same point, whom also referenced Phi’s post, and I particularly liked his last paragraph. I saw no reason to retype and re-post what they already posted and stated much better than I could. So, I chose to “high five” them before I went off on my Dr. House analysis.

I'm new here, so maybe this is the norm, but I can't believe you guys are actually arguing about this.

What's wrong with one poster agreeing with what another poster already said? Can that ACTUALLY be construed as something to argue about, or is this just a demonstration for the jerk conversation?

Anyhow, though it may be taboo at this point, I agree with the other posters that said being a jerk was just a part of human nature. In my life I have been powerless, and empowered and both conditions have certain psychological effects. As a person who is powerless, or surrounded by people that are more powerful/strong/intelligent whatever, it creates a certain group dynamic that can be seen in most primates or pack animals. Weak people naturally take subservient positions. This is not to imply that weak people will automatically be obedient slaves to someone stronger or more socially apt, just that weakness creates a situation of being softer, milder, and more agreeable. People who are the weakest in any group, usually have the least say in what goes on and to some extent take grief from other members of the group. If you have even seen multiple dogs try to eat out of the same bowl, there is usually a pecking order that can be determined with little to no physical violence; this is because social animals can pick up on social cues.

Inversely, being empowered (being the alpha, or high up on the social order of your group) can create certain feelings of assertiveness and social aggression. People will only treat you how you let them treat you. If a weak person goes to an alpha from a position of weakness, they are inviting trouble because in a sense, they are asking to be treated poorly whether they know it or not. From the alpha perspective, especially in younger males, the bullying and ridicule can be methods to help the weaker and less socially desirable members of the group catch on to social norms which they may be missing out on. If a nerdy kid was in class being picked on by the jocks he tried to hang out with, it could simply be that the jocks are trying to inform him that physical weakness and letting your mom dress you are not socially desirable traits. I have also noticed that from a position of power, weakness seems really annoying. To use the dog example again, you can make an otherwise peaceful unfamiliar dog angry and vicious, just by running from him. In other words, by taking on the position of weakness, you elevate a normal dog to an aggressive alpha position.

Outside of a group dynamic, this phenomenon still occurs. If you project yourself as too weak/mild/agreeable you are inviting trouble from every would be alpha out there. We are not so far removed from other primates as we would like to imagine. As a species, we value physical prowess, coordination, and assertiveness, and as long as we value those things, people that have those attributes will always be held above those that don't; and people without those traits will be looked down on as a less fit specimen. Since we value assertiveness in most other contexts, in this context I think it would be fair to say that someone is being a jerk simply when they are disproportionately more assertive than the person they are interacting with, or when one person senses weakness on another person and tries to elevate himself to the status of alpha by asserting himself socially or physically at the expense of the other party involved.

Just my opinion for what it's worth.

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Jerks=people who don't care how they affect other people.

I think that if you bump into people throughout your life like a pinball machine, you should perhaps try to think of ways to make your encounters with people somewhat pleasant, or at least not unpleasant. Otherwise, you may be labelled a 'jerk'.

To say, however, that antisocial people are automatically jerks, as some might assume, is not giving those people the benefit of the doubt. These types may simply be unaware of their surroundings due to deep introspection or diversion.

Just my thoughts.

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