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Miri McDonald

This is very interesting to me from a social psychology perspective. It relates to something I heard (I can't remember the source) about using twitter. If someone re-tweets other people's content too much and doesn't have enough of their own original content (through blog posts or "microblog" content on twitter itself) they are seen as not as interesting.

What I take from the study as well as your thoughtful commentary is that while we shouldn't shamefully brag about ourselves, it behooves us to talk intelligently from our own perspective versus speaking intelligently based on other people's thoughts.


Interesting. I wonder to what extent this is cultural, as well. Naturally, that's hard to extract from any research study, but, for example, my experience with the Israeli culture is that self-promotion is less distasteful there than here in the states.

Further, I see a distinction between bragging - in a "My friend played at carnegie hall" sort of way - and true admiration - "I am so excited for Jill - she's going to play at Carnegie hall!" The latter is more the type of behavior that is part of the mutual promotion agreements I've seen in the work world.

Just some thoughts...


Nearly 50 years ago a cockney friend of mine told me "You have to blow your own trumpet because nobody else knows the tune."



Bob Sutton


Your memory is spot on. But the two findings are not inconsistent. The research -- see page 94 of Yes! -- describes research (which turns out to be by my friend and co-author Jeff Pfeffer) showing that when an author's agent brags about an author (rather than the author himself), "Participants rated rated the author more favorably on nearly every dimension -- especially likability." But this new study considers a different question -- if you have you want to be seen as competent, is it better to not brag at all, to brag about your association with someone close to you who is accomplished, or to brag about yourself. This study shows that bragging about yourself or others both make you come across as manipulative, but your only get the competence boost when you brag about yourself. Note that the research you discuss in combination with this new study suggests that getting someone to brag about is the best of all worlds for you. That is why I wondered if, in the real world, that people bragging about each other might reflect exchange relationships (I will brag about if you brag about me) that enable both parties to come out best in the end. I love this persuasion stuff, endlessly fascinating.

Elad Sherf

This is surprising, especially where there is research about the effectiveness of barging about others as a tool of persuasion as demonstrated in "Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive". I thought that letting other people brag about you is more convincing... or am i getting the results of this research wrong?

jonathan bolden

would think this result might vary widely across different cultures / origins as well


Very interesting stuff, Bob. I'm reminded of some research (wish I had a cite, but I don't) that suggests that even when we know we're being flattered, we still view the flatterer in a positive light. We'd like to think that when we see through flatterers, their effectiveness is undermined, but that may not be the case.

Something similar may be going on with bragging, to which we attach a similar stigma. We'd like to think that we see through bragging and discount it, and clearly bragging has some costs, but (as Tal-Or's work suggests), it may also have some important benefits, too (with the caveats you mention.)

If this is true, it seems like an particularly important finding for women, who, in my experience as an executive coach, are typically more self-effacing and reluctant to brag about themselves and their accomplishments than men. Avoiding the costs of bragging may not be worth missing out on the benefits.

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