Take Pride

A leading psychologist reveals how our most misunderstood emotion—pride—has shaped our minds and our culture, and shows how we can harness its power.

Why did Paul Gauguin abandon middle-class life to follow the path of a starving artist? What explains the massive success of Steve Jobs, a man with great ideas but weak programming skills and a questionable managerial style? How did Dean Karnazes—the famed “Ultramarathon Man”—transform himself from a directionless desk jockey into an extreme athlete who once ran fifty marathons in fifty days?   As the renowned emotion researcher Jessica Tracy reveals in Take Pride, each of these superachievers has been motivated by an often maligned emotion: pride. Its dark, hubristic side is well known, but Tracy shows that pride is also essential for helping us become our best, brightest selves. By making us care about how others see us and how we see ourselves, pride makes us strive for excellence. In the right doses and the right contexts, it has been proven to boost creativity, motivate altruism, and confer power and prestige on those who display it. But while pride can inspire feats of genius, Tracy explains, it can also compel acts of apparent insanity and spectacular self-destructiveness, causing some people to seek status not through hard work but through intimidation, deception, and self-aggrandizement. Avoiding the bad kind of pride while nurturing the good kind might just be the secret to success.  In Take Pride, Tracy explains why our species came to feel pride in both its good and bad varieties, and how we can make this double-edged emotion serve us—rather than the other way around.

Praise for Take Pride

“Sometimes a major component of human experience falls into the cracks and is overlooked by psychology, and that has been true of the emotion of pride and its associated phenomena like accomplishment, ambition, and arrogance. No longer! With scientific and personal insight, and with a gift for vividly presenting both technical research and real-life personalities, Jessica Tracy enlightens us about how this emotion permeates our waking lives and shapes our social worlds.”

—Steven Pinker, bestselling author of How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate

“An insightful and engaging exploration of a noble joy, a deadly sin, and an essential piece of the human experience.”

—Daniel Gilbert, bestselling author of Stumbling on Happiness 


“Jessica Tracy has flipped the script on pride, showing that it’s not just a deadly sin to be avoided, but also a vitalizing virtue to be nurtured. She does it so convincingly and engagingly that she ought to be proud.”

—Robert Cialdini, bestselling author of Influence

“Take Pride is a revelation. A renowned psychologist, Jessica Tracy explains that seeking our best self is nothing to be ashamed of, but that seeking praise at all costs gets us into the worst kind of trouble.”

—Angela Duckworth, bestselling author of Grit 


“This book stopped me in my tracks and left me questioning my beliefs about what motivates us. Jessica Tracy is the world’s leading expert on pride, and reading this book is like having a coveted front-row seat in her classroom.”

—Adam Grant, bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take

“Pride drives us to success and achievement, but also arrogance and hubris. Tracing its roots to primate social dominance, Jessica Tracy found that humans everywhere express this emotion the same way. Here she offers an eye-opening discussion of both its indispensability and pitfalls.”

—Frans de Waal, bestselling author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? 


“An intriguing new way to think about a complicated emotion.”

New York

“From a remote village in Burkina Faso to the East Room of the White House to the victorious grins of blind judo masters, Jessica Tracy tells the story of our most double-edged emotion. Tracy is the world’s foremost scientific expert on pride, having shown that pride is more distinctive, universal, and psychologically pivotal than anyone had thought. This brilliant book distills her insights and brings them to life.”

– Joshua Greene, author of Moral Tribes

“Pride gets a bad rap, says Jessica Tracy. Instead of being an unalloyed vice, it can become something closer to a virtue. In this fascinating book, Tracy uses original research to show that pride is a major part of what it means to be human and can be harnessed as a force for good.”

— Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of Drive and To Sell is Human 

Media Inquiries

Media inquiries should be directed to:

Michelle Bonanno Triant
Senior Publicist
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Media Coverage »

Jess and her book Take Pride featured as an answer (and a question) on Jeopardy!


Get Yourself to Do Stuff by Appealing to Your Own Sense of Pride

A story at the start of Take Pride, a forthcoming book by University of British Columbia psychologist Jessica Tracy, is a typical one of youthful aimlessness, at least at first. Tracy writes about her post-college life in the late 1990s, when she moved across the country to San Francisco and got a job as a barista in a cozy cafe. It was a pleasant life, filled with lots of people to talk to and lots of time to read, along with few anxieties or responsibilities. But after about a year, she started missing something she’d had in college…

Read article in NY Mag »

Why Pride is the Sin You Need to Succeed

Lust. Envy. Greed. Sloth. Anger. Gluttony. Those six deadly sins aren’t going to get you anywhere good—but the seventh just might. Pride is the sin you need to succeed, says Jessica Tracy in her new book Take Pride: Why the Deadliest Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success.

“There’s a misconception that pride is bad and should be avoided,” says the psych prof from University of British Columbia. “But it’s actually what motivates us and we wouldn’t be pushed to achieve without it.”...

Read article in Flare Magazine »

The Purpose of Human Pride: Why the 'Deadliest Sin' Holds the Key to Human Success

If we in the West consider ourselves highly evolved, why do we take so many blowhard politicians seriously, even when they’re spouting blatant untruths? In her search to uncover the evolutionary lineage—and potential social benefits—of pride, Tracy cites a study that shows five-year-olds will believe people who show self-belief and certainty, even when they’ve been proven wrong. Adults, when partially distracted, are just as gullible.

At a basic level, it seems, all of us are hard-wired to pay attention to people who display pride...

Read article in Macleans »

Why Pride is Good

It’s true that “hubristic pride” – when you feel pleased in your own abilities – can be harmful and indicative of an inflated ego. But “authentic pride,” which is the satisfaction and pleasure we take from the positive outcomes of our hard work and dedication, is an important, rewarding emotion that encourages persistence. And for creatives going through a tough patch, feeling a lack of pride can be a useful indicator that you’re taking the wrong approach. In extreme cases, it might mean it’s time for you to change strategies, or even to take a new direction entirely...

Read article in 99U »

Why Did People Vote for Donald Trump?

Nobody likes a bully. And yet, as exemplified by the recent US presidential election, bullies tend to accrue power.

Donald Trump got to the White House by angrily and aggressively attacking everyone who dared challenge him. He resorted to childish name-calling (“Little Marco,” “Crooked Hillary”), insulting women’s appearances, and mocking the disabled. Social and evolutionary psychology can help us understand why voters rewarded him for it...

Read full article by Jessica Tracy in Quartz