Seminars and Panels

The Nature of Pride:
The Emotional Origins
of Social Rank

Professor Jessica L. Tracy

Jan 23 2017
11:00 A.M. - 12:30 P.M.
232 Philip G. Hoffman Hall

Why do people respond to their most impressive and apparent successes by engaging in verbal and nonverbal displays of self-celebration, superiority, and even arrogance? In this talk, I will argue that humans have an evolved tendency to respond to success by displaying pride, a distinct and universally recognized emotion expression. This expression may have evolved to serve a fundamental social function: communicating to others an individual’s deservedness of high status or social rank. As I will show, the pride expression is a powerful status signal, sending a message that is distinct from other emotions, implicitly perceived, and strong enough to counteract contradictory contextual information in shaping status-based decision-making. Furthermore, findings from a separate line of research on the psychological structure of pride support this account. Individuals subjectively experience and think about pride in two distinct ways, consistent with a theoretical distinction between a confident and effort-based “authentic” pride, and a more grandiose and self-aggrandizing “hubristic” pride. These findings explain how the experience of pride may serve a complementary function to its expression. Specifically, each form of pride is linked to a distinct rank-attainment strategy (i.e., “dominance” vs. “prestige”), suggesting that each motivates a divergent set of behaviors needed to attain each of these two forms of rank. Overall, this research suggests that pride is a complex and multifaceted social emotion that is closely linked to self-esteem, narcissism, achievement, and status, and may be an evolved part of human nature.

About Professor Jessica L. Tracy

Jessica Tracy is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, where she is also a Canadian Institute for Health Research New Investigator. She completed her undergraduate degree at Amherst College in 1996, and her Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis, in 2005. Dr. Tracy’s research focuses on emotions and emotion expressions, and, in particular, on the self-conscious emotions of pride, shame, and guilt. She is author of the book Take Pride: Why the Deadliest Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and has published over 80 academic journal articles, book chapters, and theoretical reviews, many of which appeared in the leading psychology (e.g., Psychological Science, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology) and cross-disciplinary science (e.g., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science) journals. In 2005 she won the James McKeen Cattell Award from the New York Academy of Sciences; in 2010, the International Society for Self and Identity Outstanding Early Career Award; and in 2011, a University of British Columbia Killam Research Prize. Her research has been covered by hundreds of media outlets, including ABC’s “Good Morning America”, NPR’s “All Things Considered”, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Economist, The New Scientist, and Scientific American. Dr. Tracy is currently an associate editor at the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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