Pride and Shame: Key Components of a Culturally Universal Status Management System


We apply recent adaptationist theories about the emotions “pride” and “shame” to the domain of hierarchical status and test the hypothesis that pride and shame are distinct components of a culturally universal status-management system. Using an international dataset containing ratings of the status impacts of 240 personal characteristics within 14 nations (N=2751), we found that (i) the status impacts of personal characteristics were strongly intercorrelated across nations (rs=0.79–0.98); (ii) American’s (N=222) forecasts of the pride or shame they would experience if they exhibited those same personal characteristics closely tracked the status impacts across nations (|rs|=0.74–0.98); and (iii) pride differentially tracked status gains, while shame differentially tracked status losses. These findings provide strong supporting evidence for the existence of a universal grammar of status criteria, and suggest that pride and shame are key components of a culturally universal status management system.

In Evolution and Human Behavior (E&HB).