How to brag:

Over a hundred undergrads read a conversation between two people – a ‘show-off’ called Avi who boasted about his A-grade in stats exams, and his friend. Crucially, there were four versions of the conversation, with each undergrad participant reading one version. In two versions, the friend raised the topic of the exam before he either did nor did not ask Avi what grade he got; in the other two versions, Avi first raised the topic of the exam, which either did or did not provoke a question from his friend about what grade he got. In every version Avi ended up boasting that he got an ‘A+’. Afterwards, the students rated Avi’s character.

The crux of it: context is everything when it comes to boasting. If Avi’s friend raised the topic of the exams, Avi received favourable ratings in terms of his boastfulness and likeability, regardless of whether he was actually asked what grade he got. By contrast, if Avi raised the topic of the exams, but failed to provoke a question, then his likeability suffered and he was seen as more of a boaster. In other words, to pull off a successful boast, you need it to be appropriate to the conversation. If your friend, colleague, or date raises the topic, you can go ahead and pull a relevant boast in safety. Alternatively, if you’re forced to turn the conversation onto the required topic then you must succeed in provoking a question from your conversation partner. If there’s no question and you raised the topic then any boast you make will leave you looking like a big-head.

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