Should I Brag? Nature and Impact of Positive and Boastful Disclosures for Women and Men



What is the nature of a “positive” disclosure versus a “boastful” one? How are those who use these different types of disclosures differentially construed? A set of three studies was designed to investigate three general issues. Study 1 asked respondents to rate characters who disclosed in a boastful, positive, or negative fashion. Boasters and positive disclosers were viewed as more competent than negative disclosers, negative and positive disclosers were viewed as more socially sensitive than boasters, and positive disclosers were best liked. In Study 2, the gender of the target disclosing positively or boastfully was manipulated. Compared to the boaster, the positive discloser was rated as more socially involved and feminine (less masculine) but less competent. Polarized judgments were made by both genders. Study 3 had individuals generate “boasts” and “positive statements.” The few gender differences that emerged suggest that although females’ bragging strategies may be less extreme or extensive, it is only when gender information is known that the brags of men and women are differentially construed. The present work suggests that men and women, as perceivers, may differentially activate cognitive structures (involving social involvement and femininity, on one hand, and competence and masculinity, on the other) when evaluating men versus women. The nature of the communication itself (boasts being perceived as more masculine and positive disclosures as more feminine) may exacerbate such differential activation in the construction of “mental models” of another's communication.