Patricia Hawley, a researcher at the University of Kansas, has studied popular kids, and she’s found that for each mean thing a Mean Girl does, the girl also does two really nice things.In other words, those so-called Mean Girls are actually twice as nice as they are mean.And while the geeks aren’t as mean as the popular kids, they usually aren’t as nice, either……But what really makes teens popular isn’t just a pure ratio of nicety to meanness.Instead, Hawley has discovered that the really popular kids are what she describes as “bistrategic controllers.” Popular kids intuitively understand that both kindness and cruelty can be equally effective strategies for social manipulation. And they also come to believe that the key to social dominance is in knowing when to be nice and when to be cruel.Once bistrategic controllers master that balance, then it’s very exciting to be around them: other kids can’t wait to see what they will do next. Even those who are the occasional targets of popular kids’ aggression will remain loyal followers—because most of the time, they get treated favorably. And they like excitement, too.
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