The Grapevine

Humblebragging Gets You Nowhere: Only Thing Worse Than Showing Off Is Pretending You're Not

bragging
Most people don't like a bragger, but no one likes a humblebragger. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

We all have that one friend on Facebook who’s constantly “complaining” about how “annoying” it is that he or she can’t even step foot outside the house without constantly getting hit on. This attempt to hide the fact that you're bragging is called “humblebragging,” and according to a recent study it’s the only thing that the public finds worse than actually bragging.

In general, people do not take kindly to insincerity, and a recent study conducted by Ovul Sezer, Francesca Gino, and Michael Norton, all from Harvard Business School, upheld this fact that you probably already knew. Although humblebragging isn't new, the recent popularity of it on social media has made the practice even easier to accomplish. For their study, the Harvard team investigated just how this humblebragging trend is perceived by the general public.

For the study, the team tested 302 people on their perception of bragging and complaining. For example, in one experiment participants were asked to imagine a person who had said one of the three statements: a complaint (“I am so bored”), a brag (“People mistake me for a model”), or a humblebrag (“I am so bored of people mistaking me for a model”), New York Magazine’s Science of Us reported. They were then asked to rate the sincerity of individuals based only on the statement.

Results showed that the complainers were rated the most sincere, followed by braggers. Unsurprisingly, humblebraggers were rated the least sincere by the majority of respondents.

The study revealed that humblebragging not only made you appear less likeable, but it also made others perceive you as being less physically attractive. In a separate experiment for this study, the team asked participants to rate the attraction of individuals who said the following statements: a brag (“I get hit on all the time”) or a humblebrag (“Just rolled out of bed and still get hit on all the time, so annoying”). Results showed that humblebraggers were rated on average a 4.34 out of 10, while straightforward braggers were rated a quite generous seven out of 10.

The cumulative results from the study suggest that it’s best to either “go hard or go home” when it comes to bragging. “Despite people’s belief that combining bragging and complaining confers the benefits of both self-promotion strategies, humblebragging fails to pay off,” the authors wrote.

Unfortunately, although braggers are generally disliked because they are perceived as “showing off,” a 2014 study has shown that in reality braggers actually have extremely low self-esteem and are most likely insecure about whatever it is they are bragging about. High levels of bragging on social media is also associated with anxious personality types.

Source: Sezer O, Gino F, Norton MI. Humblebragging: A Distinct – And Ineffective – Self-Presentation Strategy. Social Science Research Network. 2015.

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