Experiments with People: Revelations from Social Psychology

By Robert P. Abelson; Kurt P. Frey et al. | Go to book overview

25
“We're Mumber One!”:
Basking in Others' Glory

“In victory even the cowardly like to boast, while in adverse times even the brave are discredited. ”

—Sallust (86 BC-34 BC), Roman senator and historian


BACKGROUND

It is not uncommon for us to trumpet our accomplishments and virtues, hoping that others will like and respect us more. True, we may on occasion admit to a few personal failures or foibles, particularly among those who know us well (Tice and others, 1995). However, some form of self-enhancement, direct or indirect, is more typical. We seek to persuade ourselves and others that we are uniquely talented, irresistibly charming, and perfectly lovable (Sedikides & Gregg, in press). It is a rare person, perhaps only one suffering from severe depression or bereft of all self-esteem, who is not his or her own best public relations agent. For example, even East Asian folk, who grow up in collectivistic societies where public self-promotion is frowned upon, still show the same fondness for the letters and characters in their own name that Westerners do (Kitayama & Karasawa, 1997), and have an inclination to regard themselves as above-average on traits valued by collectivistic cultures (Sedikides and others, in press).

A familiar example of our tendency to self-enhancement is our attempting to capitalize on someone else's victory or fame, even when we have little if anything to do with it ourselves. Think of how often we use the remotest affiliation to our advantage. We might slip into a conversation the fact that we share the same birthday as, say, a movie celebrity. Or mention with unabashed pride that we hail from the state that has produced the most vice presidents. Or report to everyone's great interest (or so we imagine) that the oldest inland open-air market in the country continues to operate in none other than our hometown. In such cases, we publicize the positive

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