Friday, April 17, 2009


Benedict Carey summarizes work showing that that pride, in ways that are not obvious, is centrally important not just for surviving physical danger but for thriving in difficult social circumstances. A few edited clips:
As with the laid-off lawyer, who’s commuting in every day after getting dressed up — to his Starbucks, networks, and meets with colleagues...The fine art of keeping up appearances may seem shallow and deceitful, the very embodiment of denial... but to the extent that it sustains good habits and reflects personal pride, this kind of play-acting can be an extremely effective social strategy, especially in uncertain times.

...the expressions associated with pride in Western society — most commonly a slight smile and head tilt, with hands on the hips or raised high — are nearly identical across cultures. Children first experience pride about age 2 ½, studies suggest, and recognize it by age 4...It’s not a simple matter of imitation, analyses of spontaneous responses to winning or losing a judo match during the 2004 Olympic and Paralympic games found that expressions of pride after a victory were similar for athletes from 37 nations, including for 53 blind competitors, many of them blind from birth...people tend to associate an expression of pride with high status — even when they know that the person wearing it is low on the ladder. In one study, participants impulsively assigned higher status to a prideful water boy than to a team captain who looked ashamed.

A feeling of pride, when it’s convincing, acts something like an emotional magnet.(See my March 24 post). Participants in experiments who have had their sense of pride artificially and unconsciously manipulated are perceived by other participants as more dominant and likable.

...wearing a sad or happy face can have a top-down effect on how a person feels: Smile and you may feel fleetingly happier. The same most likely is true for an expression of pride...Pride, in short, begets perseverance. All of which may explain why, when the repo man is at the door, people so often remind themselves that they still have theirs, and that it’s worth something. Because they do, and because it is...However much pride may go before a fall, it may be far more useful after one.

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