Researchers identify three types of arrogance


On a first date, people focus on making a good first impression.

But when someone brags about themselves constantly, that person is often exhibiting some level of arrogance.

Throughout history, cultures and academia have described arrogance in different ways, such as ancient mythology when King Xerxes’ fleet was ruined by his overconfident assessment of his force compared to the Greeks.

Now, a team of psychology researchers at the University of Missouri is providing one of the first comprehensive literature reviews on arrogance, as well as a way to classify the condition on different levels across a spectrum, similarly to how autism is diagnosed.

Nelson Cowan, a Curators Distinguished Professor of Psychological Sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science, organized a team of graduate students and two postdoctoral fellows to complete this project, something he had been working on for his entire career.

This is a hierachical diagram of arrogance

The research team devised a system that identifies three types of arrogance. The image is credited to University of Missouri.

“We were surprised at the limited amount of modern research we found on arrogance,” Cowan said of the group’s findings. “

Furthermore, we found it didn’t all come from one specific area.

So we created a one-stop resource to inspire further research, including, but not limited to, possible medical diagnoses of personality disorders.”

The team acknowledges everyone seems to have some degree of arrogance, so in addition to the literature review, the researchers suggest a way to classify the different levels of arrogance a person could exhibit. The team devised a system that identifies three types of arrogance:

  • Individual arrogance — an inflated opinion of one’s own abilities, traits or accomplishments compared to the truth.
  • Comparative arrogance — an inflated ranking of one’s own abilities, traits or accomplishments compared to other people.
  • Antagonistic arrogance — the denigration of others based on an assumption of superiority.

The three levels provide a foundation for how arrogance could be described in the future.

“Our system cannot offer a complete scientific understanding, rather it is intended to provide an analytical perspective on arrogance to help guide future psychological research,” Cowan said. “It could be applied to all types of relationships, such as interpersonal relationships, or even dialogues between nations and political groups.”

Arrogance: Characteristics- How do we identify it?

What’s an arrogant person like?

Below we detail the main characteristics of arrogant people.

Not all these characteristics or signs are always present at the same time.

There are different degrees of arrogance and you can be arrogant to a greater or lesser degree, like any other personality trait.

1- Excessive desire to receive praise from others

A characteristic of arrogant people is that they constantly seek others admiration, by showing what they have achieved. They feel great love to those who adore and praise them but hate towards others who are indifferent.

2- Constantly speaks of himself and his achievements

His favorite subject is about himself, what he has done, what he has bought, what has happened to him. He also loves to be the center of attention. They tend to attract attention at any social gathering. The whole conversation revolves around him. If someone starts talking about something else, he or she immediately tries to get the attention back on himself, if necessary by interrupting others.

3- Pleasing at first

A haughty and arrogant person is usually charming when you meet them. His extroversion and charisma captivate many, but this does not usually last long because behind it is the lack of empathy, contempt, selfishness, and resentment.

4- Overcompensate for their weaknesses

They usually speak loudly, are stubborn, dress and put on makeup in such a way as to attract attention. In this way they hide their insecurities, executing behaviors that show their power.

5- Have problems creating relationships

Pride and arrogance separate others. Not only because no one likes to be around someone who thinks they’re more valuable than others but because these people often think they don’t need anyone. They themselves are enough.

Although the truth is that isolation, in the long run, makes us very uneasy. Arrogance reflects an interpersonal quality which sometimes includes a desire to overpower others.

6- They don’t recognize their mistakes and don’t receive criticisms well.

For arrogant people everything they do is fine. They are never wrong, and they always find a justification for their mistakes “I didn’t receive the information on time”,”It was not explained clearly”.

If they receive criticism, they act defensively and don’t even listen to what they are being told.

7- They find it difficult to ask for forgiveness

According to arrogant people, they do nothing wrong, they will neither ask for forgiveness nor apologize. For them, the problem is in the other person.

8- They are intolerant of those who are not like them

Arrogant people criticize others quickly, emphasizing the mistakes and weaknesses of those who do not meet their high standards. They need to correct others mistakes and even make others fail to highlight their weaknesses.

Arrogant people only talk to those who think they deserve their attention.

Arrogance Vs Self-esteem

It seems logical to think that having a lot of self-esteem can trigger arrogant behavior. That arrogance and self-confidence is part of a continuum, that is, if I have adequate self-esteem but it continuously grows more and more, there will come a point where I can become an arrogant person. However, that’s not how it works.

As we have seen, an arrogant person, deep down, has a great insecurity in himself and a lack of self-esteem.

Therefore, arrogance is contrary to good self-esteem. If a person with low self-esteem goes to therapy to increase it, he or she will not become arrogant. Instead, he will become someone who believes in their skills and virtues but also recognizes their weaknesses and works to compensate them in a healthy way.

Reasons that Arrogant People Tend to Succeed

Arrogant behaviors and arrogance can benefit some people despite it being a negative quality.

  • Arrogant people express anger. Arrogance has been found to be positively linked to the expression of anger. This sometimes is related to intimidation which in turn is related to success.
  • Arrogant people are difficult. Authors have found that people who are rated as arrogant by their supervisors and peers tend to score very low on agreeableness (personality). In other words, they are difficult people. People tend to skip dealing with a difficult person and in turn give in, this being positive for the arrogant person.
  • Arrogant people are dominant. Dominance can have all kinds of benefits. Socially dominant people have a tendency for stealing the show, making it difficult to outshine them.
  • Arrogant people think that they are superior. Arrogance shares traits with narcissism. Arrogant people believe that they are superior to others, on occasions this might be beneficial socially.
  • Arrogant people attack individuals.  Ever try to argue an issue with someone and then suddenly it gets personal? Awful, am I right? Well this empowers the arrogant person, while the other person retracts.

Here is a video on the difference between arrogance and humility. Particularly when it comes to promoting yourself for a job some people believe that it might be arrogant. Alan Weiss and Marshall Goldsmith speak about this difference.

Arrogance Vs Pride

Self esteem is important for anyone to succeed however, too much of it can be confused with arrogance and pride. However, what exactly differences a person with confidence from a person with arrogance?

There are two types of pride:

  • Authentic pride: when we feel good about ourselves when we feel confident and productive and it relates to being agreeable and emotionally stable.
  • Hubristic pride: when it involves egoism and arrogance, this relates to being disagreeable, agressive, being prone to sham, etc.

When you improve your self esteem you are working on your authentic pride and reducing your hubristic pride. Therefore, becoming an arrogant person is less likely. This reassures people you who want to become more confident but are scared of becoming arrogant.

How to deal with arrogance?

  • If they say anything hurtful to you, tell them. Don’t keep it bottled up. They tend to be so attentive to themselves that they don’t even realize the damage they do to others.
  • Point out that what he says is his opinion and that others may have other points of view, that he does not have the absolute truth.
  • He interrupts and only talks about himself, tell him:”Forgive me for cutting you off, but I’d like to tell you something.”
  • If he says something arrogant, don’t be afraid to tell him, but without attacking him but rather making him see that it wasn’t his intention (even if it was):”That sounded a little arrogant”, or “I’m sure you didn’t want to sound so arrogant, didn’t you?” or “Do you realize how arrogant that sounded?”
  • Have compassion and patience with an arrogant person, because they don’t really know how to act in any other way.

Tips for an arrogant person

After reading all this, do you think you can be arrogant? Realizing this is a big step forward.

  • Just because you did something great doesn’t mean you’re better than anyone else. You have your flaws like everyone else, and that doesn’t make you a bad person. Sometimes it’s scary to recognize our weaknesses because we feel vulnerable and it’s normal. But if we don’t recognize them and confront them, we will end up alone, isolated, with no one to count on.
  • Understand and accept that others have their own views, which may be very different from yours. No one has the absolute truth. Having different opinions can be very enriching. Don’t despise others because they think differently. Listen to what they have to say, they may surprise you.
  • Cultivate your self-esteem. You don’t need to despise others or dominate them to feel valid. We’re all valuable.
  • Go to a professional if you don’t know how to stop your arrogance.

University of Missouri Columbia
Media Contacts:
Eric Stann – University of Missouri Columbia
Image Source:
The image is credited to University of Missouri.

Original Research: Closed access
“Foundations of Arrogance: A Broad Survey and Framework for Research”. Nelson Cowan et al.
Review of General Psychology doi:10.1177/1089268019877138.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Questo sito usa Akismet per ridurre lo spam. Scopri come i tuoi dati vengono elaborati.