Have you ever been part of a group where one person’s negative attitude affected everyone in the group? If so, you may be familiar with the saying, “One bad apple can spoil the bunch.”

That popular phrase is used to refer to a situation in which one person’s negative demeanor or bad behavior can affect a whole group of people, influencing them to have a similar negative attitude or to engage in the same bad behavior.

The phrase comes from the idea that one rotten apple amongst a bunch of other apples can cause the others to go bad. But is that true? Can one bad apple really spoil the whole bunch? And if it can, why does it do that?

No one knows for sure how or when this phrase got its start. It does have some basis in science, though. When apples begin to decay, they emit gases. If the rotting apple is mixed in with a group of other apples, the good apples can absorb these gases and begin to rot, too.

Of course, we don’t always buy apples in big bunches today. Apples are readily available at the supermarket, so many people just buy a few at a time as they need them. If you ever do buy a bunch of apples, though, you might see this phrase in action if you don’t eat them right away and one begins to rot.

So it’s easy to see how people’s real life experiences with apples in the distant past could have given rise to this common phrase we still use today. If you’ve ever seen how one person’s negative attitude or bad behavior can influence a whole group to think or act in the same way, then you can see why the phrase became so popular to describe people and situations, too. An example is when a bully spreads negative information and influences others to be mean and behave badly. In that case, one person certainly can spoil the bunch!

You may feel these influences from time to time at school or in other social situations. Sometimes it’s referred to as peer pressure. This simply means the pressure you might sometimes feel when those who are similar to you — your peers — think or do certain things.

It can be hard to stand up for yourself and think or do the right thing when others are thinking or doing the opposite. How hard can it be? It can be difficult if even just one influential individual has a negative attitude or behaves badly.

But one bad apple doesn’t have to ruin the whole bunch. You can think for yourself and you can do what is right — regardless of what others are doing. Stay true to yourself and stand up for your beliefs!

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  1. YUCK!Talk about bad apple, and about “One bad apple can spoil the bunch.” That happened to me and my friends lately, I am still alright but my old friends, I just lose them. :(

    • Hey there, Carlos, we’re so glad you visited us today! We are sorry to hear that you’ve had some “bad apple” experiences lately, but we believe in your, Wonder Friend! You keep hanging out with friends who make you smile. Sometimes it helps us to talk to your family about your “bad apple” issues, Carlos, we always feel better when we share our thoughts with our family members. We’re glad you’re A-okay, Wonder Friend! :)

  2. Hello Wonderopolis. Today I’m going to the movie theater to see The Epic. I will have popcorn, hot dog, pretzel bites, and some candy. BTW, I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about fairy tales.

    TJ :)

    • Hey TJ, have fun at the movies! Thanks for telling us all about it- it sounds like you’re in for a real treat at the movies! What fun! We look forward to finding out if your guess is right on track, Wonder Friend! See you then! :)

  3. Today was a awesome day we saw Epic and it was epic plus my tooth fell out today the bad news is it fell out when I was in the pool now I don’t get money from the tooth fairy :(

    • How neat, Katie! Our Wonder Friend TJ mentioned that he was going to see Epic, too! HOORAY– you lost a tooth! We’re sorry to hear that you lost it in the pool, but at least you were having a great time swimming! Sometimes loose teeth can be sneaky! We’re so happy for you, Katie! :)

    • Thanks for visiting us today, Devonte! What a spectacular question! Sometimes, a rotten apple can spoil the other apples in a basket. When the apple rots, it releases chemicals that affect the other fruits surrounding it. The phrase “one bad apple spoils the bunch” refers to people. Have you ever been part of a group and one person has a bad attitude? How did that make you feel? Did you feel bad, too? People can change us, just like a rotten apple can change the other apples around it. We are so proud of you for WONDERing with us, Devonte! :)

    • You’re very right, Wonder Friend Briahna! Thanks for sharing your comment today! We are glad you enjoyed WONDERing with us and we are happy you’re here! What do you do when you are in a group of people with a “bad apple”? How do you make the situation better? :)

    • Oh boy, we’re sorry to hear about your bad apple experience, Kyle! That’s no fun at all! Bad apples can make us sick, and we wouldn’t want that! Good thing you’re okay, Wonder Friend! Thanks for sharing your comment with us today! :)

  4. I remember when I had peer pressure. Cause my friends wanted to do something I didn’t want to do and I was pressured.

    • Brad, thank you so much for sharing your awesome connection to this Wonder! We are so proud of you! Peer pressure is no fun at all, so it’s important that we think for ourselves and make good choices with our own, WONDERful brains. We think it helps to talk to a parent or a teacher about how you feel when you experience peer pressure. Together, you can come up with some great ideas on how to make your own choices, not follow the group. :)

    • That’s an awesome response to our Wonder, Oscar! Way to go! :)

      We are proud of you for making your own decisions, even when it’s tough to do so. Keep it up, Wonder Friend! Thanks for sharing your comment today! :)

    • Way to go, Danny, we’re so happy you shared your comment with us today! It’s so cool to know that this Wonder will help you, Danny! Keep your head up and keep making great choices! YOU ROCK! :)

  5. I think everyone has had at least one “bad apple” in their life, whether it’s friends, partners, or an actual apple, and I’m sure of it that everyone has been a bad apple themselves too, even I have too. If it’s in your friendship, you’ll eventually make up, but if its an actual apple just throw it away and think “that’s one bad apple out of the bunch.” I’m not sure if that made sense to anyone but I tried :))

    • You make a great point, Alexis! We are glad you’re thinking about what it means to be a bad apple, or to be affected by a bad apple. If it’s fruit, just get rid of it! However, in a friendship, it’s important to think for yourself! You have a WONDERful head on your shoulders, so we hope you do what’s best and make your own choices. You did a great job, Alexis! :)

    • Hey Brandon, thanks for answering our Wonder today! We are glad you’re here to join us today! What else did you learn from our Wonder about apples and attitudes? :)

    • Great question, Rai Man! When fruits and vegetables ripen, they give off gases. When they begin to rot, they give off gases. Those gases are absorbed by other things surrounding them. If you have one apple that is ready to rot, the surrounding vegetables and fruit in your refrigerator absorb those gases, like our skin absorbs lotion. Those gases help the other fruite and veggies nearby to rot quicker, too. Isn’t science awesome, Rai man? :)

    • Hey there, Brendon! Rotting fruits and vegetables can cause nearby veggies and fruits to rot, too! The rotting fruit lets out gases that speed up the process of rotting for other veggies and fruits! It’s similar to spreading a cold… if one of your family members is feeling sick, you usually don’t want to share with them, or hang out in the same place. The same is true when a fruit begins to rot– other fruits nearby are affected! What a great question, Brendon! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Can one bad apple spoil the bunch?
  • Why do apples go bad?
  • Can a positive attitude really make a difference?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

Are you a good apple or a bad apple? Be a good apple today and find a friend or family member to help you explore one or more of the following activities:

  • Can an Apple a Day Chase the Doctor Away? Revisit a past Wonder of the Day to learn more about that popular apple-related phrase. What other apple phrases do you know? Talk with friends and family members about other apple phrases. Do some Internet research to learn the background of any other apple-related phrases you might know about.
  • Want to do an experiment at home? Take a trip to the grocery store with a friend or family member. Buy a small bunch of apples. Then buy small groups of a couple of other foods, such as bananas, carrots, potatoes, or the like. Set them in similar spots in the kitchen and watch them over the course of the next week or so. Do you see an apple turning bad and then others following suit? Do you notice the same type of reaction in any of the other foods? Share your findings with friends and family members.
  • Up for a challenge? You’ve probably experienced times when one bad apple — one negative person — did spoil the bunch by creating a negative atmosphere. But can the opposite work, too? Can one good apple improve the whole bunch? Give it a try today! Put on a smile and share a positive attitude with others around you today. Compliment others. Look for the best in the people around you. Stay away from negative comments. Go out of your way to be nice to everyone you see. Pay attention to your surroundings. Did your positive attitude catch on? Did you see anyone else picking up on your positive vibe and being nice to others? We hope so! You never know when a positive attitude can make someone’s day and create an atmosphere of acceptance that improves the lives of everyone you come into contact with!

Still Wondering

ReadWriteThink’s Apple Report Form lesson guides children as they report their observations of an apple, including its weight, color, taste and more.

Test Your Knowledge

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day takes a look at some modern-day fairy tales!

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