Saturday, July 02, 2016

I don't like to boast but...

By Gary Berg-Cross

You may find it surprising, but I've been thinking about boasting and self promotion a bit these days. Well OK, in today's campaign environment this is perhaps not that surprising as we are confronted with naked forms of narcissism than usual . I'm thinking here, of course, of various claims that flow, or overflow, out of candidate Trump's mouth. In March, for example, on Good Morning America D. Trump claimed, “ No One Has 'Done So Much for Equality as I Have' Evidence? His clubs are open to everyone.

"You take a look at Palm Beach, Florida. I built the Mar-a-Lago club, totally open to everybody. A club that, frankly, set a new standard in clubs and a new standard in Palm Beach and I've gotten great credit for it. That is totally open to everybody."
Speaking to AIPAC he boasted “I've studied the Iran nuclear deal more than anyone.” The AIPAC audience laughed, maybe nervously. One reporter labeled it a “Crazed Speech Filled With Self-Promotion And Delusion.” 
Doonesbury  documented 20 such boastful delusions including claims of being # on Bible reading, women's issue, trade etc.

It's all consistent with Dan McAdam's Mind of Trump article ( a psychologist investigates how Trump’s extraordinary personality might shape his possible presidency) in The Atlantic which provides such labels to the Donald personality as:

  • narcissism,
  • disagreeableness,
  • grandiosity

These ingredients offer some idea of why Trump trumpets himself. He thinks we need to know how awesome he is. He just lacks or does not find useful the methods by which many of us engage in humble boasting. Where we may not want to let our audience on to how we are dying to brag about our kids or grand kids, new job, great investment, well Trump is on to the direct bragging path. And like a super stereotyped New Yorker he anticipates a good return on investment with little cost.

Generally, research suggests that people dislike direct, explicit self-superiority claims such as being better than others, chosen, gifted or favored by fortune. It is perhaps a comparative thing with thelistener being put one down. You can read all about the dynamics of “humble boasting in another Atlantic article by MATTHEW HUTSON called “How to Boast on the Sly A guide to bragging better.”

While we can't expect Trump to be guided by factors that influence day to day boasting as opposed to national level ones there are some factors in here that may eventually come into to play at least for some voters, outside of the Trump tribe, who are entranced with a blinding, boastful, self delusional and self promoting vision of change and leadership.

For example, as noted by Hutson when we brag overtly, we miscalculate how others will react. That is, studies suggest that self-promoters overestimated the extent to which their audiences would feel “proud” and “happy,” and they underestimated audience annoyance. A way around this is to “hire” someone to do the boasting for you. There is plenty of that in politics but again, Trump likes to toot his own boast organ himself so he may run into a limit here as praise from the usual suspects seems to be hard to hear.

One wonders if we will see a turn off from DT's explicit self-superiority claims (“I am better than others”). Of course in a campaign such claims are always there is some form maybe a bit more humbly implied. One warning to Hillary, as Hutson notes:

"Women appear to pay the greatest price for bragging. When job candidates in one study self-confidently highlighted their accomplishments, they were seen as more competent than when they spoke modestly. Yet the women who self-promoted were seen as less likable than the self-effacing women. "

Another cultural hurdle for women to clear.

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