Pride Displays Communicate Self-Interest and Support for Meritocracy

E. J. Horberg, Michael W. Kraus, Dacher Keltner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present studies examined how observers infer moral attributes and beliefs from nonverbal pride displays. Pride is a self-focused positive emotion triggered by appraisals of the self's success, status, and competence. We hypothesized that when a target emits nonverbal cues of pride, he or she will be viewed by observers as higher in self-interest and therefore more likely to endorse ideologies that would benefit the self-specifically, merit-based resource distributions (meritocracy) as opposed to equality-based resource distributions (egalitarianism). Across studies, experimentally manipulated pride displays (Studies 1 and 3) and naturally occurring expressions of pride (Study 4) led observers to infer heightened support for meritocracy as opposed to egalitarianism. Analyses also revealed that people intuitively associate higher self-interest with enhanced support for meritocracy as opposed to egalitarianism (Study 2), and this association mediates the pathway from pride displays to inferences of heightened support for meritocracy and reduced support for egalitarianism (Studies 3 and 4). Across studies, we compare pride to expressions of joy or no emotion and demonstrate these effects using thin slices as well as static images.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-37
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Egalitarianism
  • Meritocracy
  • Moral inference
  • Nonverbal emotion expression
  • Pride

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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