Science-y Saturdays: March 26th, 2016

To Brag or Not To Brag, That is the Question

Bragging–considered by some an age-old right, by others, a public nuisance leading to justifiable scorn–operates by a distinct set of gender-based rules, which is no surprise to the quizzical onlookers to the Trump vs. Cruz mudslinging so prominent at the moment.

According to Jessi L. Smith a professor and researcher at Montana State, who studied gender differences in bragging and who published her results as “Women’s Bragging Rights: Overcoming Modesty Norms to Facilitate Women’s Self Promotion,” women are much less likely to talk about their legitimate achievements than men, largely due to a culture which still mandates strong codes for appropriate female behavior.

When told to speak up and acknowledge their successes, the study showed that women experienced anxiety when it came to bragging. Asked to write letters of recommendation–one for themselves and one for a friend–the study showed that letters written for friends were qualitatively much stronger due to the anxiety women experience when speaking about their own accomplishments.

In a clever twist, the same researchers then placed a black box in the room and repeated the experiment, explaining to the women that they would feel anxiety due to the noise created by the box and to ignore it. Research has shown that misattribution of the source of an anxiety can lead to performance enhancement by causing people to think that they are anxious for another reason. The hope was that attributing their anxiety to the external noise from the box would subtly aid the women to write more accurate letters describing their own true accomplishments.

And what was the result? The women who could explain away their anxiety as caused by the unpleasant noise from the black box wrote letters which resulted in higher monetary rewards (up to $1000) and saw much more value in the exercise when they had an alternate way to handle their anxiety. Findings from the study are being integrated into work environments as a way to help women experience a reduction in anxiety when it comes time to speak to their accomplishments.

Increase ranking
As Annie Lennox would say, “Sisters are doing it for themselves.”

To read more about this important subject, here are some resources:

Why Women Don’t Talk Themselves Up and How to Do It Effectively

A Gender-Blind Study Reveals Who Gets Bragging Rights for Writing Better Programming Code

Female entrepreneurs too reluctant to brag about business prowess

Google Hiring Data Reveals Two Things Women Can Do To Get Hired And Promoted More

Bragging rights: MSU study shows that interventions help women’s reluctance to discuss accomplishments



7 Replies to “Science-y Saturdays: March 26th, 2016”

  1. I see this as an author with the issue of promotion. It takes much thought to determine what about my fiction sets me apart…and how to describe that trait for potential readers.

    Then too, I must live up to my “boasts.” I have seen some bragging by authors whose work was frankly dreadful. 🙂

    1. Yes, yes, yes. I am researching the appropriate, the set of skills we could learn and wield that would be fair and make a just impression. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. OMG, I hear Tronald Dump saying, “I’m smart. I’m really, really smart,” and a lawyer I once worked for saying, “I’m good. I’m really, really good.” Some men brag with absolutely nothing to back it up and that irritates me to no end. And the dreadful, as Laura put it, seem to brag the most. They don’t even know they are dreadful. But a woman with a rightful brag? Those same folks will try to put her in her place.

    Love the post. Clearly, you hit a nerve : )

    1. Thanks. I want to write more on this topic. Trundle has some serious mental healthiness and has made a public circus of the election process to the point where my newly minted first time voter keeps saying, “Is it always this bad mom?” Thanks for reading. Your comments always make me laugh.

  3. It is far easier to write about accomplishments and strengths of a friend or colleague. I enjoyed the post immensely and appreciate the fact you also left references for further research on the subject!!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: