Do you ever feel proud of yourself? If so, how often do you share that with another person and how do you feel when you do it?
If you’ve ever voiced a sense of pride and felt hesitant as you did so, questioning whether it was okay to feel this way and wondering how the other person regarded you, you’re not the only one. As scholars have noted, we humans have had a somewhat tricky relationship with pride for hundreds of years. For example, it’s been unclear whether pride was useful or harmful. And if pride is acceptable, how much is all right?
Fortunately, a relatively recent body of psychological research has been able to provide more clarity on this curious emotion. And just last month, researchers published a study in which they analyzed both published and unpublished studies on pride, and they found compelling support in the scientific literature for two separate notions: Authentic pride and hubristic pride.
It's worth mentioning that the researchers said they couldn’t conclusively show that these ideas are completely divergent. However, they also stated that their research lends meaningful support to the idea that authentic pride and hubristic pride are unique concepts. So what do authentic pride and hubristic pride look like, and how can they inform our awareness of our inner experience?
Authentic pride is described as “genuine pride,” and it’s what we experience when we’ve achieved something. The researchers found that it’s linked with qualities such as being friendly, responsible, broad-minded, understanding, forward-looking, and personable. It’s also connected to being inspired by reaching goals and advantageous results, feeling upbeat emotions, having self-respect, believing in one’s ability to take on challenges, and viewing accomplishments as a reflection of one’s own exertion and capacity.
Hubristic pride, on the other hand, is described as being more broadly “grandiose” and “self-aggrandizing.” It’s related to hostility, withdrawal, nervousness, and feeling low. Moreover, it’s also linked with disdain toward others, wanting to have the upper hand over people, and believing in social inequality.
As the study’s authors pointed out, this research was mainly based on people who reside in North America, so it’s not clear whether they would have found the exact same results with individuals from different parts of the world. Nevertheless, other researchers have found support for the existence of authentic and hubristic pride in other cultures. This suggests that even if the results from this study might not be precisely the same in other regions of the world, the division of authentic and hubristic pride applies in diverse cultures.
Moreover, research highlights other important distinctions between authentic and hubristic pride. For instance, one study found that authentic pride alleviates racial prejudice, whereas hubristic pride heightens it. Another study suggested that authentic pride is linked to beneficial approaches to leadership, while hubristic pride is connected to harmful leadership styles.
So the next time you feel proud of yourself, bear in mind that not all experiences we refer to as pride are the same, and allow yourself to relish a personal accomplishment. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even give yourself more permission to share it with someone else.
Ashton-James, C.E., & Tracy, J.L. (2012). Pride and prejudice: How feelings about the self influence judgments of others. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 466-476.
Carver, C.S., & White, T.L. (1994). Behavioral inhibition, behavioral activation, and affective responses to impending reward and punishment: The BIS/BAS Scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 319-333.
Dickens, L. R., & Robins, R. W. (2020, November 12). Pride: A Meta-Analytic Project. Emotion. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000905
Shi, Y., Chung, J.M., Cheng, J.T., Tracy, J.L., Robins, R.W., Chen, X., & Zheng, Y. (2015). Cross-cultural evidence for the two-facet structure of pride. Journal of Research in Personality, 55, 61-74.
Tracy, J.L., & Robins, R.W. (2007). The psychological structure of pride: A tale of two facets. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 506-525.
Van Laar, C., Levin, S., Sinclair, S., & Sidanius, J. (2005). The effect of university roommate contact on ethnic attitudes and behavior. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 41, 329-345.
Yeung, E., & Shen, W. (2019). Can pride be a vice and virtue at work? Associations between authentic and hubristic pride and leadership behaviors. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 40, 605-624.