Chapter 12: Pride – A Positive Self-Conscious Emotion

Two Types of Pride

Research suggests two types of pride exist – authentic (beta) pride and hubristic (alpha) pride.  Over several studies, Tracy and Robins (2007c) confirmed the presence of two types of pride.  Below, are summaries of these studies.  But, keep in mind there are four current theories about these two constructs. These theories are:


Theory #1: Authentic pride and hubristic pride represent two unique emotions.


Theory #2: Pride is comprised of pleasant valence (i.e., authentic pride) and unpleasant valence (i.e., hubristic pride).


Theory #3: Pride is comprised of high activation (i.e., authentic pride) and low activation (i.e., hubristic pride).


Theory #4: Authentic pride is a state emotion that occurs in response to a specific eliciting event, whereas hubristic pride is a personality trait that describes an individual who has a tendency to experienced pride across situations and over time. This theory would be similar to the distinction between fear as a state emotion and anxiety as the trait form of fear.


STUDY 1: Researchers developed 190 pairs of words from a list of 20 pride words. These pairs could include two words similar to authentic pride (e.g., proud, triumphant), 2 words similar to hubristic pride (e.g., arrogant, cocky) or one authentic and one hubris pride word (e.g., proud and arrogant).  Participants rated how similar the two words to each other.  Findings revealed two groups of pride – authentic and hubristic. (see Table 2). One limitation to this study is that participants’ similarity ratings might represent cultural definitions of pride – but that does not mean we truly experience two distinct type of pride emotions.

Table 2

Emotion Words Associated with Authentic and Hubristic Pride

A table showing authentic and hubristic emotion words.
Authentic Hubristic
Accomplished Arrogant
Confident Conceited
Triumph Cocky
Winner Stuck-up
Victorious Boastful
Achieving Haughty
Winner Egotistic
Honor Self-righteous

STUDY 2: In a second study, participants rated their tendency to experience pride-related words and their tendency to experience valence and activation from Feldman, Barrett, and Russell’s (1998) Current Mood Questionnaire. In this study, participants recalled and wrote about a time they felt pride. When participants reported their tendency to experience the pride-related words, two factors appeared. This means people who tended to feel accomplished, also reported high levels of confident, triumph and winner. In addition, people who reported they tended to feel arrogant, also experienced high levels of conceited, cocky, and stuck-up. Keep in mind that when we ask people to report their tendency to experience emotions, we are asking them to self-report on their personality or disposition. So, some people have a tendency to experience authentic pride across situations and over time, while others have a tendency to experience hubristic pride across situations and over time. This study also investigated whether the two pride groups were simply a valence or activation distinction. Through statistical analysis, Tracy and Robins partialled out variance due to valence and then again due to activation. If the two factors still remain after partialling out variance, then that suggests the two factors are not simply due to valence or activation. And that is exactly what the researchers found! To test whether the types of pride represent states or traits, doctoral students were asked to rate the extent to which each of the pride words was trait-like or state-like. Then, these ratings were correlated with the factors. For both factors, significant correlations were not found – meaning that authentic and hubristic pride are not simply state and trait pride, respectively.

STUDY 3: In study 3, participants were asked to think about a time they experienced pride (study discussed above) and to rate their feelings along 77 pride words. These self-report ratings were submitted to factor analysis. Again, the ratings for these words were factored into two groups – authentic and hubristic pride. In addition, researchers determined that the above eliciting events were associated with both authentic and hubristic pride.

Across these studies, authentic and hubristic pride are correlated with different constructs (see Table 3), revealing further information about the content of each factor. These findings show that authentic pride is associated with high self-esteem, whereas hubristic pride is associated with low self-esteem, high narcissism, and a tendency to experience shame. In fact, narcissism is associated with a discrepancy between low implicit self-esteem and high explicit self-esteem. In other words, a trademark of narcissism is that deep down on a non-conscious level, narcissists experience high levels of shame and low self-esteem. To compensate for these negative evaluations of the self, they express an inflated conscious self-esteem.

Table 3
Correlates of Authentic and Hubristic Pride

A table showing constructs and how they relate to authentic pride, and hubristic pride.
Construct Authentic Pride Hubristic Pride
Self-Esteem (trait) +
Narcissism (trait) +
Shame-proneness (trait) +
Extraversion + 0
Agreeableness +
Conscientiousness +
Emotional Stability + 0
Openness to Experience 0 0


Based on these past studies, Tracy and Robins (2007c) developed trait and state scales to measure authentic and hubristic pride. These scales can be accessed at Dr. Tracy’s Lab website here. Note how she provides different instructions based on whether she is measuring state or trait pride. So, what is the difference between authentic and hubristic pride?

Authentic pride is a positive emotion that occurs after a specific accomplishment. During authentic pride, people experience accurate feelings of self-worth and a boost in self-esteem. Evolutionary psychologists believe that authentic pride is adaptive because the pride emotion encourages us to continue to approach tasks and to succeed. Other ways authentic pride could be adaptive is by garnering higher social status, achieving group acceptance, and even promoting helping behaviors.

Hubristic pride is viewed as unauthentic pride. Hubristic pride occurs when we experience pride in the absence of an eliciting event or even for eliciting events that we did not achieve. During hubristic pride, we experience an inflated sense of self-esteem because we may not have achieved something but still feel pride. Researchers believe that hubristic pride is maladaptive because it is associated with aggression and relationship dissatisfaction. Although, one could argue that hubristic pride is adaptive by helping an individual to achieve higher status through overconfidence or by taking credit for accomplishments that they did not achieve. Essentially, hubris could help us to achieving dominance, resources, and valuable mates by manipulating others into thinking we are genuinely an achiever.


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