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Friday, January 24, 2020


Ethics in Science seminar discusses the nature of pride

Tracy used a photo of NFL player Richard Sherman to illustrate the pride expression and discussed how it may be a subconscious way to boost social ranking. | Julie Araica/The Cougar

The Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation and Statistics hosted the newest UH Ethics in Science seminar, “The Nature of Pride: The Emotional Origins of Social Rank,” Monday at Phillip G. Hoffman Hall.

The lecture, presented by psychology professor Jessica Tracy from the University of British Columbia, was open to the public and attended by people from all across Houston. The seminar focused on the nature of pride, more specifically the pride expression and the pride experience, and how these are both mechanisms for promoting social rank.

“Humans were evolved to show pride, and it may be a critical part in how we maintain rank,” Tracy said. “The pride expression is a cross-cultural behavioral response to success.”

Tracy said pride is most commonly shown by athletes after a triumphant win. She suggests that this expression is not a learned behavior, but an evolutionary one used to boost social ranking. To support this hypothesis, Tracy said in tribes of people cut off from western civilization, certain expressions of pride were still recognizable and that even blind athletes use the pride expression after a win.

Tracy believes that this behavior is used to promote social ranking and presented the evidence to back this up through experiments that she conducted.

One of the most surprising experiments was with a male individual that Tracy dressed as both a businessman and a homeless man, and then had him present pride as a homeless man and shame as a businessman.

When a neutral expression was used for both, the businessman was considered to be of a much higher ranking. However, when the businessman showed shame and the homeless man showed pride, their statuses were perceived as equal.

She then suggested that pride is the biggest indicator of success, saying that test subjects were able to associate anger and even happiness with lower status more than with pride.

“It’s very interesting how people can display pride in many ways, but that the body language they use remains the same,” said computer science sophomore Ezequiel Valasquez.

After discussing the importance of pride on social ranking, she then went on to describe the pride experienced by discussing authentic and hubristic, or excessive, pride and different leaders who have shown that type of pride.

Tracy highlighted that the main difference between the two is that those with authentic pride show indirect pride, have higher self-esteem and are generally agreeable. Those with hubris have lower self-esteem, are narcissistic and are generally disagreeable.

Tracy said both of these types of pride help in rank attainment and that they are associated with two different types of leaders.

Those with authentic pride are considered prestige leaders who attain their status through respect. Those with hubris are considered dominance leaders who attain their status through fear.

“This part was very useful in explaining the different types of leaders that we see in politics, and it showed us the real-life implications of pride,” said Rice University graduate student Eugene Hrusk.

Tracy’s seminar concluded stating that pride acts as a mechanism for promoting social rank through expression, which communicates successful, authentic pride, which leads to prestige and hubristic pride, which leads to dominance.

For students unable to attend the seminar, a webcast of the seminar along with the presentation will be available.

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