Take note, sports fans – pompous displays of group pride may actually be a sign of insecurity.
A recent study led by UC Davis professor Cynthia Pickett examined the motives behind collective pride in group settings.
“Humans exhibit two types of pride,” Pickett said. “There is authentic pride which comes from a healthy self-esteem and is based on real achievements. Then there is hubristic pride, which is usually narcissistic, arrogant and masks insecurity. I was interested in some of the predictors of when groups will feel authentic versus hubristic pride.“
Pickett found that individuals who reported feeling hubristic group pride were often part of a group that was negatively valued or had insecurity about their ability to succeed.
The American men’s 4×100 relay swim team at the Beijing Olympics fits this description, Pickett said.
“The Americans were not favored to win and they had just been insulted by one of the French swimmers,” she said. “They had been degraded as a team and therefore likely felt devalued. After [the American team] won, their immediate reaction was very loud and showy…. It was a more pompous display of group pride.“
Pickett said her findings can also help explain some of the behavior witnessed at recent political rallies.
“The interesting thing about pride is that what starts out as self-love can quickly transform into a denigration of others if a group feels threatened,” she said. “At some of the political rallies we saw examples of this when audience members would go from supporting their party to shouting out insults about the other party. This usually happens when one party feels like they are down in the polls.“
As part of her research, Pickett conducted studies of UC Davis students.
“We asked [students] to think of a time when they felt proud as a group member,” she said. “Then we had them look at a list of traits and choose the ones that they remember feeling at that time. Based on the traits they chose, we then were able to distinguish the type of pride they were experiencing.“
Pickett carried out her research with fellow Davis professor Rick Robins, who has done extensive studies on individual expressions of pride.
“For the past several years, I have been conducting research on pride and other self-conscious emotions such as shame, guilt and embarrassment,” Robins said in an e-mail interview. “The purpose of the group study was to examine whether these same two forms of pride exist in groups and whether they have the same implications.“
In a 2004 Psychological Science article, Robins and his co-researcher, University of British Columbia professor Jessica Tracy, reported that in individuals, authentic pride is more positively associated with adaptive traits like conscientiousness and genuine self-esteem whereas hubristic pride is usually associated with “self-aggrandizing narcissism and shame-proneness.“
While both hubristic and authentic pride are found in individuals that have experienced similar types of success, the difference is in what they attribute their success to, Tracy said.
“Those who experience authentic pride will more often see their success as a result of hard work and effort,” she said. “Hubristic pride is more often seen in individuals who attribute their achievements to their innate superiority or ability.“
ERICA LEE can be reached at email@example.com.