Study suggests people dislike you more for humblebragging than for regular boasting

January 12, 2018 by Bob Yirka, Medical Xpress report
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A team of researchers from Harvard University and UNC-Chapel Hill has conducted a study regarding humblebragging—in which a person boasts about an achievement but tries to make it sound less boastful by minimizing it—and report what they learned. In their paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the group describes their study and what they found.

Humblebragging is very common, the researchers note—people want to brag about their accomplishments, but do not want to come off as a braggart, so they try to cloak it with words that are meant to seem like they are still being humble. It is a form of false modesty. The problem with that approach, the researchers found, is that other people see right through it and they do not like it.

The study by the team involved nine experiments, all of which revolved around asking people to report how they felt when encountering humblebragging in one of three main areas: , and in the , where volunteers documented things they saw in diaries. In all, 646 people were surveyed regarding their feelings about humblebragging and 70 percent of them were able to recall an instance of humblebragging they had seen or heard recently.

The researchers also divided humblebragging into two main types: complaint and humility-based. The first occurs when somebody complains about something as a way of showing others that they have been asked to do something important, e.g. "I hate having to do these meet-and-greets with all these celebrities." The second is when someone attempts to brag using what is meant to be humility, e.g., "Whey do I always get asked to the dance by so many guys."

The researchers found that people tend to notice and remember the second kind most often. They also found that most of the respondents preferred pure boasting to humblebragging—because, most reported, it is at least more honest. They also found that people would rather have listened to someone flat-out complain about something than have to listen to them humblebragging. The experiments also showed that people who engage in humblebragging are less liked (and trusted) in general than other people, though they also noted that most people engage in it sometimes.

Explore further: Study suggests memories of unethical behavior less clear than other types of behavior

More information: Sezer, Ovul, Francesca Gino, and Michael I. Norton. "Humblebragging: A Distinct – and Ineffective – Self-Presentation Strategy." Harvard Business School Working Paper, , … /14725901/15-080.pdf

Related Stories

Study suggests memories of unethical behavior less clear than other types of behavior

May 17, 2016
(Medical Xpress)—A pair of researchers has carried out several experiments using volunteers and has found that people tend to not remember their own unethical behavior very well compared to other types of activities. In ...

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

Humble people are more likely to lend a helping hand, study finds

January 2, 2012
Humble people are more likely to offer time to someone in need than arrogant people are, according to findings by Baylor University researchers published online in the Journal of Positive Psychology.

Researchers find a brain link between affective understanding and interpersonal attraction

April 5, 2016
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with members from a large number of institutions in Germany has conducted a study that has revealed more about the way interpersonal attraction works in the brain. In their paper published ...

Research shows E.B. White was right in Charlotte's Web

December 18, 2014
Before Charlotte the spider spelled the word "humble" in her web to describe Wilbur the pig, she told Templeton the rat that the word meant "not proud."

Recommended for you

Analyzing past failures may boost future performance by reducing stress

March 23, 2018
Insights from past failures can help boost performance on a new task—and a new study is the first to explain why. US researchers report that writing critically about past setbacks leads to lower levels of the "stress" hormone, ...

Researcher unlocking relationship between early math ability, fingers

March 23, 2018
Ask toddlers how old they are, and they are likely to hold up the corresponding number of fingers and say, "this many."

How reciprocity can magnify inequality

March 22, 2018
People tend to reciprocate others' actions in ways that increase disparities in wealth, according to findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Building tolerance to anxiety is key to OCD symptom relief

March 22, 2018
Excessive hand washing, out of a fear of contamination or germs, is one of the most common and best-known examples of obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. Though OCD can't be "cured," symptoms can be significantly reduced ...

Stopping exercise can increase symptoms of depression

March 22, 2018
Stopping exercise can result in increased depressive symptoms, according to new mental health research from the University of Adelaide.

Antioxidants and amino acids could play role in the treatment of psychosis

March 22, 2018
A scientific paper has revealed that some nutrients found in food may help reduce the symptoms of psychotic illness, when used in the early stages of treatment.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 12, 2018
IN MY HUMBLE OPINION..........actually I don't have any, it ain't bragging if you can do it, I can solve Differential Equations & that is simply a statement of fact.
5 / 5 (5) Jan 12, 2018
My God! How pathetic can you make yourself sound? I thought I had seen you at your most embarrassing, but you have exceeded yourself this time.

For future reference, you should note 3 things.

1) People with ability do not find it necessary to boast about things - they simply prove it.

2) Nearly everybody that you lambast with your ridiculous nonsense can solve differential equations.

3) I find it amusing that you see fit to capitalise Differential Equations as if they are something particularly important or spectacular. How is your tensor calculus? Would you like to explain how to perform covariant derivatives?
4 / 5 (1) Jan 12, 2018
The nature of bragging and its reception is going to vary from country to country, culture to culture. Americans are seen as brash braggarts by many other cultures, particularly those that think more collectively than individualistically eg some Asian countries.

Even within the USA the culture in some states can be quite different to others, for instance comparing, say, New York city to Texas with respect to extroversion, for instance, or comparing socio-economic or educational groups such as highly educated intellectually biased individuals with low education emotionally biased individuals.

Stating facts can still be bragging if the information is volunteered stridently and out of context with a discussion verses responding only to a question for which an alternative answer would be a falsehood.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 13, 2018
If only I had a penny
For every one like Benni,
I could golf on the job and
Drive staff to a frenzy.
5 / 5 (2) Jan 13, 2018
Third type?
One accuses someone else of not being able to do something, implying that they can do it themselves without actually bragging about being able to do it.
not rated yet Jan 14, 2018

You are right, of course.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.