Think back to the last time that you beat a friend at a card game or outdid your previous record in a 5K race. Did you try to suppress your satisfaction so that others wouldn’t think you were conceited? In fact, new research suggests that pride, as long as it stems from a real success and doesn’t slide into know-it-all obnoxiousness or narcissism, not only pushes us to keep trying hard but actually makes others like us more.
“Contrary to the idea that pride is an emotion that we should tamp down, the experience of pride can be very socially adaptive,” says Lisa Williams, a graduate student in psychology at Northeastern University and the new study’s lead author. She and Northeastern psychologist David DeSteno found that people who were told they had excelled on a spatial rotation task subsequently took more control over a similar, team-based task, regardless of their mood or how competent they reported feeling. Both teammates and outside observers rated proud participants as more dominant and as more likable than participants who had not been tricked into feeling proud.
]The study did not examine the signals proud people send that make others like them, but other research has shown that feeling pleased with yourself tends to change a person’s subtle nonverbal behaviors—for example, triggering more smiling or a more confident posture.
Note: This article was originally printed with the title, "Deadly Sin or Social Lubricant?"