Will arrogance ever be respected

5 reasons why the most arrogant people succeed

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Raise your hand if you like arrogant people.

Just like I thought - no hands!

Hey, I'm with you: I've worked with a lot of people and over the years I've come to believe that there is at least a dash of good in every person and that we all have a ticket on the same journey. I try to be forgiving and I try to respect others as much as possible.

This said, if there is one quality in others that my goat gets, it is arrogance. In an article summarizing a provocative series of studies, Johnson, Silverman, Shyamsunder, Swee, Rodopman, Cho, and Bauer (2010) define arrogance as "a stable belief in superiority and exaggerated self-importance manifested in excessive and arrogant assertions." That sounds right. We all know one. He or she could belittle you in any context without warning. This person is almost definitely talking behind your back. And you do everything possible to avoid having to interact with him or her like you do, fear that such interactions can make you feel bad for a number of reasons.

The evolutionary psychology of arrogance

As an evolutionist, I tend to look at psychological attributes in a certain way (see Geher, 2014): Why does this attribute even exist? How does it benefit the person reporting it? What is adaptable about it?

Evolutionists of human behavior have regularly shown that there are several avenues to success in life (see Figueredo et al., 2008). In humans, there are many reasons why prosocial, differently aligned psychological strategies exist: people like others who are helpful and trustworthy, and we are more likely to help others who show signs that they may be helpful in return (see Geher, 2014) ).

Kindness isn't the only road to success, however. Selfish strategies, by definition, benefit the self - often at the expense of others. And as a wide range of researchers on the evolutionary origins of human social behavior has shown, dark strategies that involve the exploitation and intimidation of others can lead to success - whether we like it or not.

Arrogance with a focus on overcrowding self-worth and belittling others has all of the hallmarks of a dark strategy too. Furthermore, Johnson et al. (2010) provide strong evidence that arrogance is a real, measurable psychological quality - and that it strongly influences the dynamics of one's own work environment.

5 reasons arrogant people can be successful

Although arrogance is a despicable trait in others, arrogant behaviors have advantages - unfortunately, arrogance can benefit itself (see Johnson et al., 2010). Here are five ways arrogance leads to success:

1. Arrogant people express anger.

It has been found that arrogance is positively related to the expression of anger (Johnson et al. 2010). So arrogant others could attack anyone. Including you. And that can be intimidating. And, sadly, intimidation is a dark approach to success.

2. Arrogant people are difficult.

Johnson et al. (2010) found that people who are classified as arrogant by superiors and colleagues tend to perform very poorly on the personality trait of appropriateness. In other words, they are difficult people. And while difficult people are not always popular, difficulties can have their advantages. Think about the last time you got into an argument with a really difficult person. What a pain right Sometimes it's best to just give in and move on - and arrogant people benefit from it.

3. Arrogant people dominate.

Johnson et al. (2010) also found that arrogant people scored high on social domination measures. And domination can have all sorts of benefits. Socially dominant people have one leg up when it comes to gaining power. And there are even conditions under which social dominance in a partner is attractive (see Geher & Kaufman, 2013).

4. Arrogant people think they are superior.

While arrogance isn't exactly the same as narcissism, these traits share some traits in common. On this point, Johnson et al. (2010) found that arrogant people score higher when they feel superior to others. So arrogant people seem to feel superior, and that's true! Such a bloated sense of self can often lead to various social benefits (see Krueger, 1998).

5. Arrogant people attack individuals.

Finally, Johnson et al. (2010) found that arrogant people were more likely to attack individuals than problems. Have you ever tried to discuss a problem with someone and then it suddenly gets personal? Icky, right ?! Arrogance plays a role in this type of uncomfortable dynamic. And while we experience such ad hominem attacks (i.e., "on the person") as evil, we also experience them as intimidating, empowering, arrogant people on their way.

Push back against arrogance

Arrogant people share many traits associated with bullying. They use a dark strategy to move forward, often at the expense of others. Indeed, throughout history this has been a problem that humans have faced (see Bingham & Souza, 2009). Coordinating with others and pushing back against bullies has been an important tool in dealing with this type of situation in our history. When there is an arrogant bully Who is making your life difficult? I say do like our hominid ancestors who formed coalitions against bullies. And use the power of numbers to make sure those arrogant $% $ # don't win.

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Bottom line

Arrogance is a rather despicable attribute. Nevertheless it remains. The evolutionary perspective can help us understand why. Arrogant people have a number of attributes designed to intimidate and undermine others. When you have problems with an arrogant bully, you need to realize that you are not alone. Understanding the causes of arrogance as well as the importance of social coordination in dealing with this type of behavior can help us fight arrogance when it raises its ugly head.


Bingham, P.M. & Souza, J. (2009). Death from afar and the birth of a humane universe. Lexington, KY: BookSurge Publishing.

A.J. Figueredo, B.H. Brumbach, D.N. Jones, J.A. Sefcek, G. Vasquez & W.J. Jacobs (2008). Ecological restrictions on mating tactics. In G. Geher & G. Miller (Eds.), Mating Intelligence: Gender, Relationships, and the Reproductive System of the Mind (pp. 337-365). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Geher, G. (2014). Evolutionary Psychology 101. New York: Springer.

Geher, G. & Kaufman, S. B. (2013). Mating intelligence unleashed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Johnson, R. E., Silverman, S. B., Shyamsunder, A., Swee, H.-Y., * Rodopman, O. B., * Cho, E., & * Bauer, J. (2010). Be superior but actually act inferior ?: Correlates and Consequences of Arrogance in the Workplace. Human Performance, 23, 403- 427

Krueger, J. (1998), "Enhancement Bias in Descriptions of Self and Others," Bulletin 24 (5) for Personality and Social Psychology: 505-516.