Abstract

https://ssrn.com/abstract=2597626
 


 



Humblebragging: A Distinct – And Ineffective – Self-Presentation Strategy


Ovul Sezer


Harvard Business School

Francesca Gino


Harvard University - Harvard Business School

Michael I. Norton


Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit

February 24, 2017

Harvard Business School Marketing Unit Working Paper No. 15-080
Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 15-080

Abstract:     
Self-presentation is a fundamental aspect of social life, with myriad critical outcomes
dependent on others’ impressions. We identify and offer the first empirical investigation
of a prevalent, yet understudied self-presentation strategy: humblebragging. Across seven
studies including a week-long diary study and a field experiment, we identify
humblebragging—bragging masked by a complaint or humility—as a common,
conceptually distinct, and ineffective form of self-presentation. We first document the
ubiquity of humblebragging across several domains, from everyday life to social media.
We then show that both forms of humblebragging—complaint-based or humility-based—
are less effective than straightforward bragging, as they reduce liking, perceived
competence, and compliance with requests. Despite being more common, complaintbased
humble-brags are less effective than humility-based humblebrags, and are even less
effective than simply complaining. We show that people choose to deploy humblebrags
particularly when motivated both to elicit sympathy and impress others. Despite the
belief that combining bragging with complaining or humility confers the benefits of each
strategy, we find that humblebragging confers the benefits of neither, instead backfiring
because it is seen as insincere.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 77

Keywords: humblebragging, impression management, self-presentation, interpersonal perception, competence, liking, sincerity


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Date posted: April 24, 2015  

Suggested Citation

Sezer, Ovul and Gino, Francesca and Norton, Michael I., Humblebragging: A Distinct – And Ineffective – Self-Presentation Strategy (February 24, 2017). Harvard Business School Marketing Unit Working Paper No. 15-080; Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 15-080. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2597626 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2597626

Contact Information

Ovul Sezer
Harvard Business School ( email )
Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Francesca Gino
Harvard University - Harvard Business School ( email )
Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Michael I. Norton (Contact Author)
Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit ( email )
Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States
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