Masking a brag with false modesty—known as a "humblebrag" in today's parlance—may seem like an effective way to boast about your achievements without seeming like, well, an egotistical jerk. But a working paper from Harvard Business School researchers finds exactly the opposite, noting that people may be better off simply bragging and self-promoting without shame than adopting a veneer of faux humility, the Science of Us reports. Even complainers fared better than humblebraggers in the study because they were viewed as more "sincere." The researchers conducted five separate experiments to test how people perceived humblebragging.
In one of the experiments, 300 or so people were asked to rate hypothetical people who made the following three statements: "I am so bored" (complaint), "People mistake me for a model" (explicit brag), and the everyone-wishes-they-had this-problem remark of "I am so bored of people mistaking me for a model" (humblebrag). Not only did the participants rate the complainers as the most authentic (braggers came in second), but they also imagined the humblebraggers to be less attractive than the braggarts. "Despite people's belief that combining bragging and complaining confers the benefits of both self-promotion strategies, humblebragging fails to pay off," the researchers conclude. (One writer thinks celebrities are the worst humblebraggers.)