Are you proud of Kalpana Chawla? Should you be?

So this happened.

If you are an Indian, you must have felt an instinctive emotion of “pride”. We feel proud of the Indian team when they get us the world cup and we feel proud of A R Rahman when he wins an Oscar. But why do we? What have we contributed to their achievements?

What about saying ‘I am proud of my country’?

Religion? Heritage? In all these instances, why are we feeling proud of something to which our contribution has been zilch?

I finally understand it from a cognition / psychological point of view.

Basking in reflected glory (BIRGing) is a self-serving cognition whereby an individual associates themselves with known successful others such that the winner’s success becomes the individual’s own accomplishment.


What is the benefit of BIRGing? It boosts your self-esteem.

Disadvantage? BIRGing can be negative when done so extensively that you become delusional or forget the reality that you did not actually accomplish the successful event.

So essentially the ‘instinctive’ reason we BIRG is because the non-rational part of our brain knows it will increase our self-esteem – and that means we can achieve more in life / be more productive etc.

It is only the rational part of the brain, that even asks – ‘but is there any real basis’? Well guess what, no – there is no real basis. At the end of the day, it’s a story that helps us feel good about being part of something bigger than just us.

If you have anything more to add to this, do let me know (other than more jargon like ‘tribalism’, ‘social identity theory’ etc.).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *