According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a braggart is defined as “a loud, arrogant boaster.”
We all know someone who is constantly talking about their successes. Society often labels them negatively, referring to the person as a braggart or narcissist.
General societal mores stipulate that boastful people tend to be disliked.
How do we then talk about our accomplishments- and therefore maintain positive self-esteem or self-enhancement motivations- without driving friends and family away?
Bridget Lynch, a psychology doctoral candidate under the direction of Dr. Michelle vanDellen, studies this phenomenon.
“Specifically, my work investigates the ways in which people can feel positively about themselves without alienating their friends,” Lynch explains.
Lynch’s research examines the broad ways in which people can fulfill this need to feel positively about themselves without incensing those closest to them.
Lynch’s main research questions include how people can feel good about themselves, especially those concerned with how others will view them or who dislike being the center of attention.
“One thing my research considers is that people may feel more positively about themselves when other people spread positive information about them.”
Giving an example, Lynch discusses a scenario in which you hear good things about your friend from a third-party person. In this case, you are less likely to think your friend is bragging and you may even view the third-party person as a good friend, too.
Lynch refers to these third-persons as “promoters,” and reports that these are people who generally know more people and are perceived as likely to spread positive information.
Lynch cites her past research which shows that we tend to value our friendships with promoters more than those with other people.
According to this research, it is these promoters with whom we tend to share our successes.
“In its ‘purest’ form, I think promoters may pass on information that they gain from witnessing someone’s success, such as being in class together or seeing someone present at a conference,” she says.
“However, I think it is also true that savvy people may know a few people they can turn to and tell information that those people will spread and promote. This is still a brag in a sense but it is more selective.”
Lynch’s work strives to understand the interpersonal processes and considerations that go into the decision to self-promote versus having someone promote for you.
“Existing work explores the function of self-enhancement but has neglected or downplayed how self-enhancement influences relationships,” she says.
Lynch also plans to eventually examine why one would choose to be a promoter.
“I think being a promoter would present its own boost in self-esteem in the form of feeling and being perceived as a good friend.”
In the future, Lynch sees her work having implications for bully interventions.
“If we teach children the benefits of being promoted and that those benefits are greater when they promote each other, we could increase the spread of positive- rather than negative- information in schools.”
After graduation, Lynch plans to pursue a career focused on teaching and mentoring.
“I’m interested in a teaching-centered program where the priority is working with undergraduate students.”