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This is my attempt to pounce on and then shape the words I breathe.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Brag a little

Check out "Science Reveals Why We Brag So Much" in today's Wall Street Journal.  I had thought the reason for bragging was compensation for self-doubt or for being neglected as a child.  What science revealed, however, is that bragging stimulates pleasure synapses in the brain: "Generally, acts of self disclosure were accompanied by spurts of heightened activity in brain regions belonging to the meso-limbic [sic] dopamine system, which is associated with the sense of reward and satisfaction from food, money or sex."  In other words, we brag because we cannot help it.   The scientists gathered statistics and drew their conclusions by testing whether a person would rather give their thoughts than accept money. 

If I were still in the high school classroom, I would do a study on this.  There it might be more pleasurable for students to succeed in pretending a degree of disinterest in self.  I had to beg students to brag about what they were doing better and what they liked--except for the domineering 3 or 4 students per class who were the disciplinary challenge.  Those loud few seemed to enjoy hearing the sounds of their own voices and even silencing others.  The few were bragging, for sure, but the self-disclosure was often inappropriate to the classroom and to the activity.  However, there was always a small audience to entertain, a few who enjoyed and approved the interruptions. To me, the behavior--whether they could help it or not--seemed like a love of power rather than a love of bragging.

How would offering monetary awards for  "bragging" or for not bragging alter classroom behavior?  What other nonverbal behaviors were observed in addition to preferring talking over money?  Did scientists consider the myriad distinctions between bragging and self-disclosure?  Or is this provocative journalism making sensation out of a more modest scientific study by  skewing the terms under examination?

If anyone knows more about the where, why, and how of this study, please let us know!

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