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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF BRAGGING

Dark111

FORMER SF SUPPORTER
#1
From https://www.counsellingconnection.com/ - I've edited it down to the more pertinent points.


Just why we as human beings are so prone to boasting has been the subject of much recent psychological (and neuroscientific) attention. Equally, researchers are now looking into the question of why we hate it so much when we are subject to others’ boasting. This article looks into both those questions and offers a few tips for dealing with a braggart (or helping a client who is).

Definition and distinction: boasting and pride
Before we go further, let’s clarify. Dictionary.com defines boasting as speaking “with exaggeration and excessive pride, especially about oneself” (2012). There is a sense with bragging that we are self-glorifying. But is having pride always bad?

Psychotherapist Richard Joelson (2018) clarifies that pride in itself is not the problem. (Appropriate) pride is thought of as a feeling of self-respect and personal worth: a feeling of satisfaction with one’s own (or another’s) achievements. It is an integral component of healthy self-esteem and a crucial part of each person’s sense of self.

With bragging, conversely, we are talking about excessive pride. Most of us were taught as children not to brag or “skite” through sayings such as, “Don’t get too big for your breeches” or “Your head will be so big it won’t get in the door” (Joelson, 2018). And we mostly dislike it intensely (ok, hate it!) when we must endure it from others. Yet, even knowing that, many of us give into the urge to do over-the-top showcasing of our own accomplishments, especially given the capabilities for widespread self-promotion made possible by social media. What’s going on here?

*******************************************************

Why we brag — and the consequences
Talking about ourselves: The ultimate reward

Noting the millions of carefully curated postings on the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, psychologists at Harvard began to delve into the question of why sharing about our own experience is so important to us that we can’t seem to stop doing it. They further wished to investigate just how rewarding it is. The psychologists set up a study comprised of five brain imaging experiments and found, using fMRI, that when subjects shared information about themselves, the same areas of the brain activated as those that light up when we are eating food or having sex!

Interestingly, in order to be allowed to share about themselves, subjects had to forgo financial reward that they could gain if they were willing to respond to questions about others. Many passed on this reward, preferring the reward of answering questions about themselves (Newman, 2013). Robert Lee Hotz, Senior Science Correspondent at the Wall Street Journal, sums it up this way in a short clip on YouTube. At a synaptic level, he said, the researchers found that “the brain is so rewarded by my experience of my conversation about me” (Hotz, 2012).

They asked 131 workers on the crowdsourcing site Amazon Mechanical Turk to complete a short survey in which they either recalled a time they bragged about something or had someone else brag to them. They were then asked to describe their own emotions and what they believed were the emotions of the other person in the interaction. As Scopelliti explains in her TED talk, the people who chose to talk about themselves significantly overestimated the extent to which their listeners were happy for them and proud of them when they bragged — and they significantly underestimated how much they annoyed others by their bragging. Perhaps even more significantly, both the “recipients” (the people who chose to recall someone bragging to them) and the self-promoters had a hard time imagining how they would feel if the roles were reversed (Scopelliti, 2016; Ghose, 2015).

The Empathy Gap
These findings were just begging to be followed up, so in a second experiment, Scopelliti and team asked subjects to provide a profile about themselves. Half of the subjects were instructed to write their profiles in a way that would make them “interesting” to others reading them. Profile writers were asked to rate how interesting they believed their profiles would appear to others. Profile “raters” then read the profiles and rated them on how interesting they were. The findings showed that there was zero correlation between the profile providers’ predictions and how much the raters did like the profiles. Moreover, those who had been instructed to make their profiles “interesting” (i.e., the subjects who ended up bragging) were liked less by profile raters than those who had not been issued any instructions.

Scopelliti explains the differences between subjects’ perceptions of themselves and others’ perceptions of them as the “empathy gap”: the measure of just how hard it is for someone to genuinely put themselves into another person’s shoes. Michael Norton, a behavioural scientist at Harvard Business School who was not involved with the Scopelliti studies, noted that “we tend to be pretty self-focused; we tend not to understand that people think differently about the world” (Ghose, 2015; Scopelliti, 2016).

Fixing the insecurity of oversharing
So how do we close the empathy gap, and really connect with people: or do we? It will come as no surprise to readers that many experts writing about bragging have pegged the insecurity of the bragger. Some liken it, especially in its compulsiveness, to getting a “fix” or a fill of something, perhaps to distract themselves from an inner emptiness, such as that experienced by narcissists (Polard, 2016).

We can recognise the insecurity behind the boasting, insists Dr. Susan Whitbourne, Professor Emerita of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, by noticing four signs:

1. The braggart tries to make you feel insecure about yourself. In fact, they are probably projecting their insecurities onto others in order to be able to examine them.
2. The boaster needs to showcase his/her accomplishments. The sense of inferiority at the heart of constant recitation of their great lifestyle, elite education, or genius children’s achievements are attempts to convince themselves that they are ok.
3. The braggart does the “humblebrag” (as above) far too often. Again, look out for self-deprecatory statements that are really excuses to drop important names or identify high-status details (like the conspicuous late-model Mercedes in the background of the Facebook picture where the person in the foreground is getting you to notice his new t-shirt).
4. The show-off frequently complains that things aren’t good enough. Examples here include the person complaining about the work travel for the high-profile job, or the rather snobbish negative assessment of an expensive restaurant meal or a performance whose tickets cost a fortune. Complainer-braggarts may be proclaiming their high standards as a way of demonstrating that they are truly better than everyone else, but it is more than that. They are also trying to prove that they hold themselves to a more demanding set of self-assessment criteria (Whitbourne, 2015).

Andrea Polard, PsyD (2016), offers a few tips:

1. Ask to switch the subject, or just switch it. This can be accompanied by declarations that we aren’t easily impressed, or the type to admire others’ good fortune. At the very least, the boaster may feel awkward in continuing his earth-shattering revelations of incredible attainment.

2. Boast about yourself, then self-correct, as if suddenly realising how bad it sounds: “Oh, excuse me; I guess I’ve been bragging, and it’s probably better if we don’t do that; it only makes others feel bad”.

3. Share a quick vignette about others bragging (use some celebrity), sharing how much more likable the person would be if only they didn’t boast so much.

4. Tell them what’s happening for you. You might not have enough relationship with some braggarts to make this worthwhile, but there are probably also people in your life with whom you could share how alienating it is to hear constant bragging. This can be followed up with the question of whether the person is interested in connecting with you, too.

5. Just walk away. Not everyone is willing to change, and where narcissism is the culprit, change is particularly difficult. We don’t have to be everyone’s friend, and walking away may make it easier to maintain a stance of compassion for the person and the terrible life they must be living if they feel compelled to skite all the time (Polard, 2016).

Few of us would disagree that boasting is, at best, an ugly habit that reveals our worst side, and may destroy our relationships (or prevent them from getting going). But once we understand the psychology behind the other person’s attempts to elevate themselves, their misguided efforts to feel ok about themselves don’t have to have the opposite effect on us anymore.

EDIT: My own observation is the astounding level of Dunning–Kruger among most people I've ever met. Actions speak louder than words and until I see an actual real world demonstration of genuine competency in whatever great talent/ability/aptitude they claim to possess, they're just words in the wind.
 

JMG

~ Crazy Cat Lady ~
#3
Very interesting topic @Dark111 thanks for posting all that info about it I enjoyed reading it a lot. It's always been kinda odd with me when it comes to listening to others brag, because it really depends kinda heavily on HOW they do it. There's people who do it in an amusing enough way that I somehow manage to enjoy listening to it, especially if they seem receptive to hearing me talk about something along the same lines, or if they at least seem to appreciate my attention. Also if they seem to do it in an innocent way then it doesn't usually bother me too much. The subject matter they are talking about can also be something that I'm either fine with or triggered by. I would NOT enjoy listening to a woman brag about how many men she's been with, or how much attention she gets from men or even people period. But listening to a woman talk about being able to play a lot of instruments or a sport she thinks she's good at would be fine with me. I generally find listening to guys brag to be fine cos they seem to not usually be doing it in as bitchy and off-putting of a way as women often seem to. As long as a person doesn't come across like they're either trying to be better than me, or literally acting like they just ARE better than me then I usually have a pretty high tolerance for listening to it I think. I kinda treat it like a mental challenge kind of thing if that makes sense. Like "how much of this can I listen to without feeling either envy, annoyance or both". I understand the insecurity behind it so in a strange way I think I kinda find it comforting because it immediately tells me I have found someone who if nothing else can at least somewhat relate to the feeling.

I don't usually feel very compelled to brag though, the only time I will ever mention much of anything in terms of what I think I've accomplished in my life or what I think I'm at least ok at is if I feel like people are dismissing me, underestimating, ignoring (this has to be to a pretty excessive and offensive degree first) or just treating me like I'm unworthy in some way. But then it is more of a "standing up for myself" kind of thing. I think I'm slowly caring less about even bothering doing that though because if you have to fight THAT bloody hard before people will acknowledge the positive, valuable things about you then it's better to just save your energy and remind yourself of your worth in your own mind instead :)
Oh I dunno if this will matter or even be seen and if not then I guess that is fine but I just wanted to say I love the quotes in both of your sigs (Dark & Lanius).
Dark - I love Nietzsche and I never heard that quote of his before but I love it and agree with it VERY much.
Lanius - Lol!
 

Dark111

FORMER SF SUPPORTER
#4
Very interesting topic @Dark111 thanks for posting all that info about it I enjoyed reading it a lot. It's always been kinda odd with me when it comes to listening to others brag, because it really depends kinda heavily on HOW they do it. There's people who do it in an amusing enough way that I somehow manage to enjoy listening to it, especially if they seem receptive to hearing me talk about something along the same lines, or if they at least seem to appreciate my attention. Also if they seem to do it in an innocent way then it doesn't usually bother me too much. The subject matter they are talking about can also be something that I'm either fine with or triggered by. I would NOT enjoy listening to a woman brag about how many men she's been with, or how much attention she gets from men or even people period. But listening to a woman talk about being able to play a lot of instruments or a sport she thinks she's good at would be fine with me. I generally find listening to guys brag to be fine cos they seem to not usually be doing it in as bitchy and off-putting of a way as women often seem to. As long as a person doesn't come across like they're either trying to be better than me, or literally acting like they just ARE better than me then I usually have a pretty high tolerance for listening to it I think. I kinda treat it like a mental challenge kind of thing if that makes sense. Like "how much of this can I listen to without feeling either envy, annoyance or both". I understand the insecurity behind it so in a strange way I think I kinda find it comforting because it immediately tells me I have found someone who if nothing else can at least somewhat relate to the feeling.

I don't usually feel very compelled to brag though, the only time I will ever mention much of anything in terms of what I think I've accomplished in my life or what I think I'm at least ok at is if I feel like people are dismissing me, underestimating, ignoring (this has to be to a pretty excessive and offensive degree first) or just treating me like I'm unworthy in some way. But then it is more of a "standing up for myself" kind of thing. I think I'm slowly caring less about even bothering doing that though because if you have to fight THAT bloody hard before people will acknowledge the positive, valuable things about you then it's better to just save your energy and remind yourself of your worth in your own mind instead :)
Oh I dunno if this will matter or even be seen and if not then I guess that is fine but I just wanted to say I love the quotes in both of your sigs (Dark & Lanius).
Dark - I love Nietzsche and I never heard that quote of his before but I love it and agree with it VERY much.
Lanius - Lol!
Glad to hear you enjoyed reading the post. I'm not "one of the club" so it's always nice when one brave soul says they like something I post. Of course, plenty of women with no real developed character - that's something you have to put a lot of work and effort into - can get an easy self-esteem boost by wearing a low cut top to a nightclub, or wherever.

In your case, well, in everyone's case, action speak louder than words. A lion does not need to tell the world that it's a lion.

“A good deed is not a good deed if you brag about it”
― Jeffrey Bernardo Copiaco
 

KM76710

Kangaroo Manager
SF Pro
SF Supporter
#5
I kind of like the braggarts they identify themselves as someone I am likely to disregard as irrelevant and move on to people who may be quieter but more interesting with something to add.
 

LOSTINSIGHT

Well-Known Member
#6
Bragging is not on my radar ,,i cant even take compliments ,theres self hatred for you .
The group i grew up with mostly have the positive functional attributes to function in society ,but alot of them still project and punch down in there jeering of others .
since i gave up drink ,did introspection and looked back ,i see how bad it was .
The male EGO is mostly a pissing contest .
If someone braggs and can back it up so be it .if anyone is raising children they really need to learn whats needed for them to function in society .theres no excuse with so much info these days .in my day it was a joke.
 

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