A Comparison between the Likability Research
of Bill Cottringer and Van Sloan's Social Quotient

1. Bill Cottringer (his quotes in red):
Unlike Sloan's indirect approach, Cottringer asked participants directly about characteristics they associated with likability in others. He wonders if
"some characteristics are perceived more important than others because these are the ones they are struggling with themselves?"

Over the years I have studied likability, trying to identify the most common characteristics that influence one person into seeing another as likable or unlikable. Recently, I conducted a widespread survey to verify and clarify my intuitive impressions of these two judgments.

I simply asked a wide variety of people to tell me the top five things that influence them in seeing another person as likable and the top five that influence a perception of unlikability. Ten characteristics appeared most frequently from the combined lists.

Below is a comparison on the ten characteristics Cottringer found to be important to likability. He writes more about each in his article: "The Power of Likability."

BE HONEST Sloan did not measure honesty in likability because he could not develop a self-question on it in which participants would give themselves other than the highest ranking. Honesty did rate, along with punctuality, as the most important quality sought by employers. See http://SQ.4mg.com/traits.htm More research needs to be done in honesty, as in white lies. Is it useful to be fully honest answering the question: "How do you like my new hairstyle?"

Cottringer: "I would definitely like to hear more about this...although I found people did not like other people who are phony. Maybe there is a polite niceness that is the exception? Both Honesty and Dishonesty came up first for likability and unlikability, which seems to make it a very important interpersonal issue."

BE HUMBLE Not measured by Sloan; same difficulties as with honesty above. Other likely characteristics, as using other's names frequently, were not measured by Sloan - due to similar difficulties in constructing good self-questions.

Cottringer: "Actually humility didn't show high, but the opposite- conceit, arrogance, egocentricity, selfishness, bragging, overbearing etc. showed very high as unlikability indicators."

LEARN EMPATHY Seems important, especially for men

LAUGH OFTEN Sloan's results find a higher importance for happiness and smiling than for sense of humor, especially for females. But both research approaches find this general area of top importance in likability.

Cottringer: "I think many of my respondents used "sense of humor" as a catch all for people who were able to stop and laugh now and then, not taking life so serious. A smile can be a small gesture to show this relaxed state. And I think happiness and humor are closely related."

BE POSITIVE One of Sloan's highest correlations, especially for women.

Cottringer: "Negativity was also high on influencing a perception of unlikability."


BE POLITE Sloan found that courtesy was a factor in likability in most populations. But courtesy was seen as a negative trait in the poor Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn!

ACT SMART Sloan: May not be a likability/ social skill, but a personal characteristic useful in general success, as would be ambition or integrity. Intelligence appears to be high on the list of traits linked to likability, but that likely is just a function of the Social Quotient survey design. Results with the original question: "Who would you like to be with at a lunch break?" showed no correlation with intelligence. But students and employers did not like that question. When the substitute "Who would you want to have as your store sales clerk?" was used, intelligence correlated with those selected. Participants said they valued some brains in a sales clerk.

Cottringer: "Intelligence and acting smart mean so many different things to different people, but it does show high for me as a desirable characteristic in the perception of likability - both the positive and negative "intelligence" characteristics were in people's top five lists on likability and unlikability, which like dishonesty-honesty, makes it a pretty significant interpersonal issue"

APPEAR ATTRACTIVE Sloan: Valuable, but not as important as
happiness or being upbeat.

Cottringer: "Again, I think the important appearance characteristics are probably cleanliness and neatness, but it is the internal confidence, harmony and contentment that project an outward pleasant face. Smile on the inside and it shows big time on the outside."

LISTEN MORE Surprisingly, Sloan's listening results showed little correlation to likability. Perhaps this relates to how people rated themselves on "I enjoy listening to others."

Cottringer: "I think that listening may be reflective of our desirable characteristics, like politeness and empathy. We all need to be listened to in order to feel that the other person respects and cares for us enough to try and understand us."

2. Van Sloan's Social Quotient approach
With the original 2500+ Social Quotient surveys, participants filled out a Side B section, rating themselves on a number of qualities like happiness and physical characteristics. These self-ratings were then correlated to the marks others had given them on their likability. The results are summarized in a chart at

Sloan's results identified several traits that correlated with likability beyond those mentioned by Cottringer. These include success in other activities, and for males, athletic ability and really liking most people. His traits were somewhat different for males and females, but surprisingly were quite consistent among different socio-economic groups. Sloan found that most physical characteristics (except overweight in females) had little effect on likability.

Social Quotient results give a numerical score (and a detailed printout) to all participants, rating them on their likability. Some school officials have worried that low scores might hurt self-esteem, but teachers have not found this. Instead, they find that a low score often prompts students with "attitude" to want to take steps to improve their behavior. See the last comment on

Likability seems to be largely intuitive, often based on first impressions. Individuals new to a group can reasonably grade others based on a 20 second impression, because their scores on the likability of others are somewhat in line with group averages. (However, the better group members know each other, the more consistent their likability scores of others are.)

Go to: Cottringer's article on Likability
Go to: Cottringer and Sloan on Self-Actualization

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Comments to: VanSloan@yahoo.com

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