From veganism to fundraising, psychologists have found acts of altruism often attract mistrust and even anger
In 2014, the word “humblebrag” was added to the Oxford online dictionary, along with the following definition: “An ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud.”
In the wild, humblebrags often present as false complaints (“I’ve lost so much weight I have nothing to wear!” or “So stressed: I applied for six jobs and got all of them!”) or as a boast cloaked in humility (“I can’t believe my book became a bestseller!”).
Quirks of our psychology can prompt a form of moral hypocrisy. We say we like people who do good things, but then we make fun of them or try to exclude them from the group
This is an extract from The Social Instinct: How Cooperation Shaped the World by Nichola Raihani, which is published by Jonathan Cape on 3 June (£20). To support the Guardian order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply