The Pratfall Effect

Expert research proves your audience doesn't like or trust perfection
The Pratfall Effect
Jake McNeill
May 24, 2021
5 min read
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On social media, there is an obsession to be perfect.

All artists, creative rebels and maverick entrepreneurs have fallen into this trap.I know I have!

We’re passionate, creative people who fiercely protect our visions.

We obsess over the colours of our websites and the tiny creative nuances that only we can see and hear.

We fear creative rejection. So we obsess.

We’re crucifying ourselves because perfectionism is:

A) an illusion

B) all in our heads

And perfection isn’t what your audience wants.

Studies show that companies with too many 5 star reviews lose people’s trust. People question the validity of the reviews. Experts call it “The positivity problem.”

What is the Pratfall Effect?

Making mistakes in public make us more human and trustworthy. It’s being authentic and being honest about our weaknesses.

Instead of trying to hide our faults or the flaws in our service, we should promote them.

Why should we care?

We’re all personal brands. We’re all creatives who want to change the world.

We can’t change the world if we don’t build trust.

What’s the science?

In 1966, Elliot Aronson a social psychologist theorised that to build trust and be more likeable we need to be more honest and stop hiding our flaws.

Aronson believed that we view our heroes as superhuman, but by showing their flaws humanises them, making them more relatable.

Nobody is perfect. We all know this, so stop trying so hard to prove otherwise.

The Experiment

To test his theory, Aronson gathered 48 men and divided them into four groups

He pre-famed each group with a backstory that would indicate their social status.

4 recordings were made:

  1. Somebody pre-framed as average answering questions
  2. Somebody pre-framed as superior answering questions
  3. Somebody pre-framed as average answering questions and loudly spilling a cup of coffee
  4. Somebody pre-framed as superior answering questions and loudly spilling a cup of coffee

After the recordings, the 4 sample groups were asked about their impression of the people on the tapes.

The results concluded Aronson’s theory – the ‘superior’ individual answering questions and making a pratfall (mistake) was the most positive.

Whilst the recording of the average person answering questions and making a pratfall was the least positive.

Celebrity Pratfall Examples?

Jennifer Lawrence is one of the most relatable actors in Hollywood. The Oscar-winning star of The Hunger Games and X- Men is known to be “down-to-earth” and “honest”

She is also famous for being clumsy and falling including on the way up the stairs to accept her Oscar.

Everyone loves the Rock.

He’s genuine and gives his time generously to the fans. He’s also very open and honest about his mental health problems.

Being human and sharing our flaws with honesty and integrity builds trust.

Pratfall in Marketing

Pratfall also works in marketing.

Rather than hide the flaws of their products, some brands turn them into selling points.

Guinness is the slowest pint to pour in the pub. Many brands would try and hide this fact or change the product.

Not Guinness: They used it as the centrepiece of their campaign.

“Good things come to those that wait”


The world is full of bullshit. Face tuning, photoshopping and airbrushing fill our feeds.

Instagram famous people virtue-signalling empty statements to boost their engagement so they can get more sponsored post income.

To stand out and make a racket you just need to be yourself, warts and all.

Stop trying to make everything perfect. Or copying what everyone else is doing. You are only torturing yourself and it comes across as insincere.

Be honest. Make fuck ups. And apologise from them sincerely.


Your only goals are:

  1. To build trust with your audience. Create authentically. Connect with empathy and deliver with compassion
  2. Create art, products, services or ideologies that make a difference
  3. Stand out and make a racket in your saturated market by being yourself.

Stop trying to be perfect. It doesn’t exist. It’s a figment of our workaholic and neurotic creative imagination.

Be honest about yourself and especially your work. Celebrate your fuck ups. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

A bit about me

I help maverick artists and creatives hack into their true creative genius, crush the creative blocks that hold them back, and create their best work.

Every creative rebel’s worst enemy?

Creative mediocrity: Being bland. Staying in our lane. Creating in our comfort zone and following the crowds.

The Goal? To create authentic work that matters. Take creative risks, avoid creative burnout, and making a racket in saturated markets.

I’m a former multi-platinum artist manager who got burnt out and became a creative blogger, coach, and consultant.

I’ve challenged myself to write 50 articles in 50 working days. 5 down, 45 to go.

Find out more information on my website or connect on my LinkedIn

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