The Situationist

Pride, A Deadly Sin. Or Is It?

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 22, 2007

“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”~Bible (Proverbs)

“The peril of every fine faculty is the delight of playing with it for pride. Talent is commonly developed at the expense of character, and the greater it grows, the more is the mischief.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Pride sullies the noblest character.” ~Claudianus

“Pride grows in the human heart like lard on a pig.” ~Alexander Solzhenitsyn

“You can’t change what you’ve done, so you might as well just take pride in it.” ~Takayuuki Ikkaku, Arisa Hosaka & Toshihiro Kawabata

Its ubiquity notwithstanding, we seem to have, at best, mixed feelings about pride. It’s one of the seven biggies — up there with sloth and gluttony. There are all types of pride — school pride, national pride, gay pride, and other sorts of group-based pride. There’s self pride and false pride; there’s pridepride-flag.jpg and prejudice; there’s a pride of lions; and there’s something called pride fighting. People don’t just have pride, they are filled or pumped up with pride. And it’s easier to show pride than to swallow it. With so much focus on pride, you’d expect that we would know a great deal about it — that it would be the topic of extensive scholarly study. Not so — at least not until very recently.

Jessica Tracy, an assistant Professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia is among the first researchers to do an in-depth study of pride, examining the different ways people respond to it as well as the way expressions of pride cut across cultures. An article from sciencedaily.com, which is excerpted below, summarizes some of her findings.

* * *

The Bible got it wrong. Pride only goes before a fall when it’s hubris — excessive pride that veers into self-aggrandizement and conceit. This emotion can be a deadly sin or a healthy part of human expression, says psychology researcher Jessica Tracy (Credit: Martin Dee)

But otherwise, this emotion is fundamental to humans and healthy self-esteem, “There’s good pride and there’s bad pride,” says Psychology Asst. Prof. Jessica Tracy.

* * *

Tracy and co-investigator Prof. Richard Robins, University of California, Davis, have established that pride has two faces: hubristic and authentic. “The two different facets show us that hubristic pride reflects feelings of arrogance, grandiosity and superiority,” says Tracy.

An example she gives of hubristic pride is of someone finishing a task and instead of focusing on their achievement, will think, “I’m a really great person.” By contrast, authentic pride reflects achievement and mastery, a sense of: “I worked really hard and deserve that praise.”

Tracy says the latter has positive outcomes, while “hubristic pride is associated more with narcissism, which can lead to inter-personal conflicts.”

* * *

She measures through a self-report scale that offers the respondent a selection of words to describe feelings and views on pride. “Arrogant,” “conceited” and “egotistical” would indicate hubristic pride while “achieving,” “accomplished,” “productive,” “confident” and “fulfilled” indicate authentic pride.

Native American Chief

These various shades of pride are important when it to comes to better understanding and treating people for such issues as low self-esteem, says Tracy.

“Shame correlates with pride. If present, pride may be able to reinforce peaceful and productive behaviours,” notes Tracy. “Its absence, caused by humiliation or ego threats, could provoke aggression or other antisocial behaviours.”

* * *

She says pride has received little research attention in the past since it didn’t fit easily into the category of “primary emotions” such as fear or joy. Instead, pride is categorized as a “self-conscious emotion,” which develops out of social interaction with others.

What particularly fascinates Tracy is how this emotion has evolved through time and continues to shape human social dynamics. For example, the darker side of pride may have evolved out of the age-old human desire for status.

“Authentic pride might motivate behaviours geared toward long-term status attainment,” says Tracy, “whereas hubristic pride provides a ‘short-cut’ solution, granting status that is more immediate but fleeting, and in some cases, unwarranted.”

* * *

Another area of Tracy’s work explores how pride is immediately recognizable to others when translated into body language. To test her theory about the universality of the pride expression, Tracy conducted research between 2003 and 2005 in Toussiana, a rural village in Burkina Faso.

The villagers spoke only their native African language, Dioula, and could not read or write. Working with a translator, Tracy asked them to describe what they saw in the photographs of male and female white Americans and West African, who displayed different emotions.

Looking at the photos, the villagers identified pride along with the other six basic emotions — anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise.

“We saw that recognition of the pride expression does cut across cultures.”

* * *

Click here to read this article in it’s entirety. Click here to explore an article about Tracy’s and Robin’s earlier research on the physical manifestations of pride. Click here to read an abstract of an earlier study by Tracy on children’s capacity to recognize.

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One Response to “Pride, A Deadly Sin. Or Is It?”

  1. [...] Pride, A Deadly Sin. Or Is It? « The SituationistJun 22, 2007 … But otherwise, this emotion is fundamental to humans and healthy self-esteem, “ There’s good pride and there’s bad pride,” says Psychology … [...]

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