Throughout history, arrogance has taken many forms. The battle of Thermopylae is one of the most recurring examples since the powerful King Xerxes I had to pay the price for overvaluing his strength and belittling the strategic value of courage and cunning of the Greeks.
The sinking of the Titanic has become another mythical example, not only of technological failure but also of how fallacious the spirit of invulnerability characteristic of the time was, a spirit that affirmed that this luxurious ship was absolutely unsinkable. Life showed them in the worst way that everyone and everything is vulnerable.
However, sometimes you don’t have to dig around so much in history, but just look around to understand that arrogance still exists.
What is arrogance?
Arrogance is a belief of superiority accompanied by an exaggerated self-esteem – often artificially inflated – that manifests itself through excessive and presumptuous claims.
The arrogant people usually act as if they were better than the others and yearns to be admired and respected for their special qualities and/or great achievements. Deep down, arrogance implies a desire to dominate the others and an excessive confidence in one’s own abilities, seeing oneself as worthy of being more successful than the others.
Types of arrogance
Psychologists at the University of Missouri analyzed the studies conducted so far on arrogance and claim that we are all arrogant – to some extent – although we don’t like to recognize it. In fact, a study conducted at Yale University found that arrogant attitude begins to develop very early in life.
These researchers confirmed that children between 5 and 7 years old begin to show signs of arrogant thinking because they believe they know more than the adults. The habitual thing is that at some point throughout the development that egocentric posture is attenuated, as we form a more objective and realistic image of ourselves and the world.
However, in general we could refer to a continuum of arrogance, represented as follows:
According to psychologists at the University of Missouri, there are three types of arrogance:
1. Individual arrogance. It is an inflated opinion about one’s own abilities, traits or achievements that does not fit reality. It implies magnifying our results and exaggerating our competencies, which leads to a distorted image of ourselves.
2. Comparative arrogance. It is an inflated classification of one’s own abilities, traits or achievements compared to those of other people. This type of arrogance is not limited to exaggerating the self-image, but also implies a skewed view of the others.
3. Antagonistic arrogance. It is the culmination of arrogance as it implies the denigration of the others based on an assumption of superiority. The arrogant person not only believes himself superior, but also thinks that the others are inferior and acts as such, often humiliating or ignoring them.
When arrogance is not mitigated but grows, it is usually a compensatory mechanism that hides great insecurity. It can also act as a kind of defense mechanism to protect a fragile self-esteem. In practice, these people fear rejection, so they assume an arrogant attitude. They reject and distance the others to prevent from being rejecting by them.
In other cases arrogance can come from true achievements. These are usually people who have succeeded where others have failed, so they begin to overvalue their skills and soon begin to suffer a kind of Superman complex.
Whatever the source of arrogance, we must keep in mind that an inflated image of ourselves, which does not fit reality, can create more problems than it solves. A study conducted at Michigan State University revealed that arrogant people often attack the others, are more likely to respond with anger, are unkind and difficult to deal with. And these characteristics do not make life easier.
Cowan, N. et. Al. (2019) Foundations of Arrogance: A Broad Survey and Framework for Research. Review of General Psychology; 108926801987713.
Lockhart, K. L. et. Al. (2017) Overoptimism about future knowledge: Early arrogance? The Journal of Positive Psychology; 12(1): 36-46.
Johnson, R. E. (2010) Acting superior but actually inferior? Correlates and consequences of workplace arrogance. Human Performance; 23: 403-427.