J Pers Soc Psychol 2020 Aug 17. Epub 2020 Aug 17.
Kenan-Flagler Business School, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Self-promotion is common in everyday life. Yet, across 8 studies (N = 1,687) examining a broad range of personal and professional successes, we find that individuals often hide their successes from others and that such hiding has relational costs. We document these effects among close relational partners, acquaintances, and within hypothetical relationships. Study 1 finds that targets feel less close to and more insulted by communicators who hide rather than share their successes. Study 2 finds that hiding success harms relationships both when the success is eventually discovered and when it is not. Studies 3 and 4 explore the mechanism underlying these relational costs: Targets infer that communicators have paternalistic motives when they hide their success, which leads them to feel insulted. Studies 5-7 explore the contextual cues that elicit inferences of paternalistic motives, such as private (vs. public) settings (Study 5), direct (vs. indirect) questions (Study 6), and close (vs. distant) relationships (Study 7). Across our studies, we also explore the emotional and impression-management consequences of hiding success. Although the relational consequences of hiding success are universally negative, the emotional and impression-management consequences are mixed. Whereas previous research highlights the negative consequences of sharing one's accomplishments with others, we find that sharing is superior to hiding for maintaining one's relationships. Thus, we shed new light on the consequences of paternalism and the relational costs of hiding information in everyday communication. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).