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.
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