To brag flagrantly is, most of us realise, unbecoming, and so a favoured mitigation tactic has emerged: the ‘humblebrag’. This is a way of masking a boast, either in a feigned complaint or as fake modesty, such as “It’s so exhausting staying in touch with all my friends” or “If someone told me I’d pass with first-class honours, I’d never have believed them”.
Unfortunately for humblebraggers, however, the tactic doesn’t seem to work: it’s just too transparent. In 2018, researchers at the University of North Carolina and Harvard Business School found that humblebraggers are less liked and are perceived as less competent, and that this is due to their methods coming across as insincere.
Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.