CM 058: Jessica Tracy on the Benefits of Pride

blog-post-jessica-tracyIs pride a deadly sin or a key to our survival? Will it lead us down a destructive path or can it actually help us resist temptation?

In this conversation, Jessica Tracy answers these questions and more. Jessica is a Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia and author of the book, Take Pride: Why the Deadliest Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success. Her research has unearthed findings that help us see just how important pride is for human progress and survival.

Her discussion of pride takes us beyond associations of boastfulness and arrogance, in order to understand how feelings of pride can boost creativity, encourage altruism, and confer power and prestige in ways that benefit us as individuals and as a society.

In this interview, we talk about:  

  • Why we need pride to feel good about ourselves
  • The fact that pride is innate, rather than learned
  • The body language we associate with pride and what it signals
  • How residents of Burkina Faso helped us recognize that pride is universal
  • How philosophers like Aristotle and Rousseau helped us see pride as positive
  • How studying narcissism clued us into key aspects of pride
  • The fact that there are two kinds of pride – authentic and hubristic
  • What we learned when we asked people to talk about times when they felt pride
  • How the speech of one political candidate included both aspects of pride
  • Why asking if you are a voter vs if you will vote makes you more likely to vote
  • How we can resist temptation by imagining the pride we will feel if we do
  • How displays of pride convey status and why that is important
  • What residents of Fiji taught us about pride, status, and evolution
  • Why we evolved to have hubristic pride and the dominance that comes with it
  • The connection between prestige and authentic pride
  • How people with hubristic pride dominate through fear
  • How dominant leaders are better at helping groups solve problems
  • How prestigious leaders cultivate creativity and innovation in groups
  • The fact that cultural ideas evolve through learning
  • How pride motivates us to create and make things better
  • How pride helps us want to teach and share and let others copy
  • When people show pride in answering questions observers will copy them
  • The fact that pride guides social learning
  • How pride helps helps scientists make progress – they want to be right and it feels good when that happens
  • Why we did not evolve to be selfless – we evolved to build a sense of self
  • How hubristic pride is about a false sense of self and why it leads to shortcuts
  • Why our sense of self is different from that of any other animal
  • To what extent do pride and shame drive bad behaviors?

Selected Links to Topics Mentioned


Dean Karnazes and Ultramarathon Man

The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan

Cumulative cultural evolution

Lance Armstrong

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