Regret is usually a waste of time. As is gloating; A precautionary tale for the clueless…

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Do you know anyone that gloats when he or she perceives triumph?  I’ve witnessed this, and we happen to be studying the cognitive structure of emotions right now in one of my psych classes.  Thus, this entry.

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If you’re like me, there are times when you just can’t help but feel sorry for the person doing the gloating….especially when he or she is doing it  under false pretenses….that is…when the gloater THINKS things are one way….and they gloat…while everyone else is sort of making fun of them or clucking their tongues because that person’s perception of reality is WAY off…..but do you ever wonder what actually causes someone to gloat?   In a word….insecurity.   Public appearances and saving face are huge issues with the person that gloats.  The phenomenon is initially caused by comparing oneself with others, with insecurity and with envy, and it has deep neurological roots.

thief of joy

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The smugness and malignant pleasure associated with gloating has to do with envy that is believed to be overcome by a feeling of personal triumph.  According to neuroimaging studies, the part of the brain called the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) activates when envy occurs.

dorsal anterior cingulate cortex

This happens because coming up on the short end of social comparison violates the person’s self-concept, resulting in emotional pain. The more superior the assets and attributes of the target person in a social comparison, the greater the envy will be.  When the gloater believes that the envied person experiences misfortunes , strong activation occurs in the ventral striatum, a key reward node in the brain….and gloating takes place.

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Gloating can also be at the root of specific forms of humor.  For instance, we might laugh when we see a slapstick comic fall down on stage.  People that are prone to gloat might also laugh when they perceive that a person that had power over them gets “knocked down a peg or two,” and gets “put in his or her place “.  The emotion is stronger the less the gloater cares about the individual, the more the gloater holds that person responsible for some misdeed,  and the more the event was unexpected.  Gloating can feel especially sweet if the gloater envied the person or wanted revenge against them.

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Just a precautionary measure.  Consider that you might be wrong before you publicly gloat about something.  You might look much less silly if you do.  “He (or she) who laughs last, laughs best.”

Just sayin’…..

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2 responses »

  1. I’m not really a gloater. Is that a word? I don’t really feel good when i see bad things happen to even bad people. As a child i was told i was overly sensitive..i can get angry, yes, but not for long periods of time. Kharma tells me its not my place to gloat over things or to wish people ill. My empathic personality sometimes provides me with an abundance of pain and disappointment. I have learned to just let things go..and its hard. I’ve had alot of ISH as my oldest daughter says.Anger and gloating and animosity,as with all negative
    things..merely saps energy that could better be used for joyful interactions. The people who judge me usually have no idea who i am inside or out.I let them have that.My grandmother used to say “worry when they stop talking about you”.

    • People that gloat ….especially the clueless ones that do it publicly, believing they have triumphed, when everyone around them is clucking and either feeling sorry for them or making fun of them, is what I was talking about. I know you and I have both been on the receiving end of this with our prospective, clueless gloaters. They do love to make fools of themselves, especially when something entirely different than they think is going on. Note THEY are the ones trying to do the talking for other people, too. Sad, yet funny in a way…

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