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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”