Pride is referred to as one of the seven deadly sins by Christianity. But, is it all bad, and what role does it play in our social development as a species?

Daniel Szyncer, a a research scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Center for Evolutionary Psychology and a postdoctoral researcher at Arizona State University states the following:

The function of pride is to motivate the individual to cultivate traits and pick courses of action that increase others’ tendency to value them…

Pride is frowned upon by not only religion, but many cultures view it as one of the worst traits someone can have. It is considered to cloud judgement, stroke ego and invoke irrational thinking just to prove one’s social worth.

I must admit that my pride has influenced many a decisions I have made in my lifetime. It stood as a barrier to my true growth in my early years and clouded how I view relationships and my professional life. Pride played a major role in the jobs I applied to, the schools I went to, how I appeared physically, how I made business decisions as an Entrepreneur, and how I accepted responsibility and accountability in both my personal and professional lives.

In a recent study led by the University of California, Santa Barbara, on which this article is based, Daniel Szyncer goes on to states:

Natural selection would have crafted a neural program—pride—that makes you care about how much others value you, and motivates you to achieve and advertise socially valued things.

In retrospect, when I look back at how pride influenced my decisions early on in life, it can be agreed that the underlying cause was due to other people’s perception of me. How was I being viewed by my peers, my parents, my siblings, my lovers, my close friends, and my business associates. Were they thinking I am confident, hardworking, driven, and resilient, and how easy was it for me to sway their perception the other way? In other words, my pride was influenced by my idea of what others thought of me. It was less of self-indulgence and egotism and more a need for validation and support.

John Tooby, a professor of anthropology at UC Santa Barbara, co-director of the CEP, and also a coauthor of the paper says:

The pride system is designed to give others some vote in what behavior you end up choosing, so that they have an ongoing stake in your welfare.This predicts not only that people should have a detailed map of what members of their community value socially, but that the intensity of pride someone feels in achieving some specific outcome should closely match the degree to which others would value that specific achievement. This helps you determine which value-promoting acts are worth the effort.

Depending on the magnitude of the anticipated pride when considering a course of action, individuals will pursue and advertise behaviors that increase others’ evaluations of them. According to the researchers, the anticipated feeling of pride is a social pricing signal, allowing the mind to weight the private payoff of an action (e.g. the nutritional value of hunting a given type of prey) against the social payoff (e.g. showing others that you are a skilled hunter, or giving the meat to others). – [direct quote from paper]


As the Professor Tooby states in summary, the act of pride in and of itself is formed through a innate feeling or need to gain someone’s respect or affirmation. It stems from that human urge to be a part of a community, to be acknowledged, noticed, and praised. So, our pride in and of itself may not necessarily be a bad thing, as it can be viewed as how we acclimate to society as humans. Especially in our formative years as teenagers and young adults. Hence it raises the question…

Can pride be viewed as a good thing?

In my opinion, yes it can, but only to a certain extent. Pride can be seen as a stimulant to achieving greatness and dismissing failure, albeit, for the pleasure of an individual or a community. It can be viewed as a driving force towards accomplishing one’s objectives and a serve as a means of motivation.

However, pride threads a very thin line between accomplishment and ego…

The reason why pride gets a bad wrap in many culturesaccording to the paper, can be related to the high sense of entitlement in the achiever. As Daniel Szyncer states:

People dislike the social subordination that sometimes follows others’ increases in status, and when there’s envy the mere success of others is experienced as a grievance. This may explain why pride is a target of righteous indignation around the world.

Therefore, it can be concluded that pride is a double edged sword. It is a right of passage of sorts into finding one’s way through this life, and is fueled by the same people who frown upon its result. Which is one of egotism, self-adoration and over-empowerment in individuals who bear fruits from the use of this fertilizer.

No matter how religious you are, or how socially awkward, in one way or another pride influences our everyday behaviors. Even in the abstract, as humans, we are all creatures of pride, as it is an undeniable, innate trait of our species.

Do you think pride is good or bad?


One Love,

Dave Anthony

Posted by:Dave Anthony

I am a Jamaican born Entrepreneur living in the United States. Adventurous, writer, weird, down to earth. Here I write about interesting stuff that educates, thrills and influences.

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