We Like Pride

A recent Psychological Science article describes experiments where subjects were randomly induced into either an proud or a neutral mental state, and then worked with a group on solving a problem:

Proud individuals not only took on a dominant role within the group problem-solving task, but also were perceived as the most likeable interaction partners. These findings suggest that pride, when representing an appropriate response to actual performance (as opposed to overgeneralized hubris), constitutes a functional social emotion with important implications for leadership and the building of social capital.

This seems a somewhat odd conclusion to draw, since in this experiment the pride was not an appropriate response to actual performance; it was randomly induced! 

Nevertheless, this does seem to confirm pride as a signal of social status.  We like folks who signal high status, except if they are a rival or we think they are bidding for more status than they can support. 

Added: This NYT article from a month ago reviews this and other pride studies.

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  • http://stuckk.net awans

    The key part of ‘actual performance’ was that subjects thought they had performed well on a specific task as opposed to just being prideful generally. Not ‘actual performance’ as in performing well _in fact_.

    I’m interested in why you might think we’re annoyed with people who are bidding for more status than they can support.

  • Kuhi

    Awans, I would believe that the annoyance would stem from the fact that we don’t believe that they’ve earned it. If we feel that they haven’t earned it, we feel that they’ve done less than required. If they can do less than everyone else and get away with it, then their method is optimal and ours isn’t. They then become a threat to us, and so we try to make them appear lesser by showing annoyance. If we can succeed, our methods of doing things is justified, or so it appears to us.
    If it seems that they have earned it, then their methods appear to be a socially accepted path and our methods are not threatened by any new innovations.

  • HH

    Awans, Kuhi pretty much nails it. I’d add that status often translate into fulfillment of wants [resources, sex]. Since we’re competing with others for access to limited resources, their claim for status they cannot defend would give them a head start on access to such resources, and it’s in our best interest to get annoyed and cut them down to size. This is especially true because status is mostly relative, so their gain is our loss.

    As an example, imagine a warrior returning to the tribe, telling the story of how he single-handedly won the war for the tribe [when in fact he hadn’t]. If that claim stands, such a warrior would probably be able to get more/better women than he otherwise ‘deserved.’ This obviously hurts his fellow warriors, who, despite having fought as valiantly, are now knocked down in the pecking order. It’s in their best interest to get annoyed at the liar and expose the truth. We probably developed annoyance at such things so that potential liars know ex ante that they will annoy people – innate annoyance is a credible signal of disapproval.

  • http://florin.myip.org/ Florin Andrei

    Read “Rocannon’s World” by Ursula K LeGuin. It’s sword-and-sorcery meets science fiction (with faster-than-light technology, no less). Often, this kind of works, sometimes classified as “not serious”, offer surprising insights into subconscious details like the one made evident by the study mentioned above. This is sometimes true for comics, too.

    In this case, the connection between “proud” and “noble” (and therefore likable or admirable) is made very clear in the book. I guess this is the case with many other works in the fantasy genre.

  • http://liberalvichy.blogspot.com/ Vichy

    “Read “Rocannon’s World” by Ursula K LeGuin. It’s sword-and-sorcery meets science fiction (with faster-than-light technology, no less). Often, this kind of works, sometimes classified as “not serious”, offer surprising insights into subconscious details like the one made evident by the study mentioned above. This is sometimes true for comics, too.”
    I can’t read a comic book without subjecting it to economic, philosophical and scientific criticism. Which tends to really annoy casual comic book fans.