Humblebragging Study Finds It Is Worse Than Boasting

“Humblebragging” is wrapping up a brag in a complaint or false humility — unfortunately most can see through it.


“Humblebragging” is wrapping up a brag in a complaint or false humility — unfortunately most can see through it.

People hate ‘humblebragging’ even more than unadorned boasting, a study finds.

Humble bragging is when a person brags about something, but wraps it up as a complaint or false humility to try and hide the brag.

Humblebraggers were less liked and less trusted than others, the research found.

Humblebragging examples

Here are two examples of humblebragging culled by the researchers from social media:

“Hair’s not done, just rolled out of bed from a nap and still get hit on, so confusing!”


“Graduating from 2 universities means you get double the calls asking for money/donations.

So pushy and annoying!”

It is better to just boast, as the study’s authors explain:

“…humblebragging is less effective than simply complaining, because complainers are at least seen as sincere.

Despite people’s belief that combining bragging and complaining confers the benefits of both self-promotion strategies, humblebragging fails to pay off.”

The worst type of humblebragging

Humble bragging is common because people want to show off their achievements, but don’t want to appear full of themselves.

Unfortunately, across the nine studies the researchers carried out, people saw right through it.

The study looked at humblebragging on social media and in the real world.

The most irritating kind is when it involves false humility.

For example:

“Why do I always get asked to the dance by so many guys?”

However, most people admitted humblebragging at one time or another.

The study’s authors conclude:

“The proliferation of humblebragging in social media and everyday life suggests that people believe it an effective self-promotional strategy.

Yet, our results show, people readily denigrate humblebraggers.

Faced with the choice to (honestly) brag or (deceptively) humblebrag, would-be self-promoters should choose the former – and at least reap the rewards of seeming

The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Sezer et al., 2018).

Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.

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