The Evolutionary Psychology of Arrogance

As an evolutionist, I tend to look at some psychological attribute in a specific kind of way (see Geher, 2014 (link is external)). Why does this attribute exist in the first place? How does this attribute confer benefits to the person who displays it? What is adaptive about this attribute?

Evolutionary scholars of human behavior have regularly demonstrated that there are multiple paths to success in life (see Figueredo et al., 2008). In humans, there are all kinds of reasons that prosocial, other-oriented psychological strategies exist. People like others who are helpful and trustworthy, and we are more likely to help others who show signs of being possibly helpful in return (see Geher, 2014).

This said, niceness is not the only route to success in the game of life. Selfish strategies, by definition, benefit the self – often at a cost to others. And, as demonstrated by a broad array of researchers on the evolutionary origins of human social behavior, dark strategies that include the exploitation and intimidation of others have the capacity to lead to success – whether we like it or not.

Arrogance, with a focus on over-inflating one’s self worth and belittling others along the way, has all the hallmarks of a dark strategy to social life. Further, Johnson et al. (2010) provide strong evidence that arrogance is a real, measure-able psychological quality – and that it strongly affects the dynamics of one’s work environment.