The Hubris Hypothesis: You Can Self-Enhance, But You'd Better Not Show It


  • Mario Pandelaere is now at the University Gent, Belgium.
  • This research was supported by a Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Vlaanderen grant (project G.0159.04) awarded to Vera Hoorens.


We tested whether and why observers dislike individuals who convey self-superiority through blatant social comparison (the hubris hypothesis). Participants read self-superiority claims (“I am better than others”; Experiments 1–7), noncomparative positive claims (“I am good”; Experiments 1–2, 4), self-equality claims (“I am as good as others”; Experiments 3–4, 6), temporally comparative self-superiority claims (“I am better than I used to be”; Experiment 5), other-superiority claims (“S/he is better than others”; Experiment 6), and self-superiority claims accompanied by persistent disclaimers (Experiment 7). They judged the claim and the claimant (Experiments 1–7) and made inferences about the claimant's self-view and view of others (Experiments 4–7) as well as the claimant's probable view of them (Experiment 7). Self-superiority claims elicited unfavorable evaluations relative to all other claims. Evaluation unfavorability was accounted for by the perception that the claimant implied a negative view of others (Experiments 4–6) and particularly of the observer (Experiment 7). Supporting the hubris hypothesis, participants disliked individuals who communicated self-superiority beliefs in an explicitly comparative manner. Self-superiority beliefs may provoke undesirable interpersonal consequences when they are explicitly communicated to others but not when they are disguised as noncomparative positive self-claims or self-improvement claims.