British people are famed for their good manners – but new research suggests we might not say “thank you” quite as often as you would think.
Scientists have revealed that an “unspoken willingness” to co-operate with others exists in societies across the world, and has left those two simple words all but surplus to requirements.
In everyday conversations, “thank you”, they found, now goes without saying.
But there is no need to despair for good old British manners just yet – researchers also discovered that English speakers still expressed gratitude more than most.
Our study reported in the New York Times today— Nick Enfield (@njenfield) May 23, 2018
Think You Always Say Thank You? Oh, Please https://t.co/wSDmav0lVp
The study, published in Royal Society Open Science, looked at almost 1,000 examples from informal, everyday conversations between friends, families and neighbours in eight different languages.
Across many of the these languages, thanks were given in only one out of 50 occasions.
“Our findings indicate a widespread assumption that saying ‘thank you’ is not necessary in the everyday contexts of our lives,” said Professor Nick Enfield, from the University of Sydney, who led the research.
“When people think of social norms around gratitude, they naturally think about our interactions in formal settings, where it seems standard to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
“But in in our homes and villages – where our interactions would seem to matter most – we find people dispense with these niceties almost entirely.”
Some might interpret this as a crisis of rudeness ... Instead, it demonstrates that humans have an unspoken understanding we will co-operate with each otherProfessor Nick Enfield
The languages involved in the research included Cha’palaa in Ecuador, English in the UK, Italian in Italy, Lao from Laos, Murrinhpatha in Northern Australia, Polish from Poland, Russian from Russia and Siwu from Ghana.
Cha’palaa speakers never said “thank you” after someone met their requests, while English speakers were the most polite, expressing gratitude in one out of seven occasions.
“Some might interpret this as a crisis of rudeness, that we are polite in public but have no manners in our own homes,” added Professor Enfield. “But that is the wrong interpretation. Instead, it demonstrates that humans have an unspoken understanding we will co-operate with each other.”