ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (1): 131-139.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.00131

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The neural basis of pride: A comparative perspective

SHEN Lei, JIANG Daitai, CHEN Ning(), LIU Wei()   

  1. College of Education, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai 200234, China
  • Received:2020-03-11 Online:2021-01-15 Published:2020-11-23
  • Contact: CHEN Ning,LIU Wei;


Pride is a positive emotional experience arising from evaluating one’s own achievements attributed to oneself based on the standard of self-internalization. As a typical self-conscious emotion, moral emotion, and social emotion, different types of pride have multiple psychological and social functions that have profound significance in promoting mental development and social interactions. In recent years, revealing the neural basis and its potential mechanism for this complex emotion has not only become a hot topic in pride research but also a frontier issue in affective neuroscience. In view of the complexity of pride, this paper analyzed the neural basis of different types of pride from a comparative perspective and places pride in the spectrum of self-consciousness emotions and moral emotions for a comparative analysis of its neurophysiological mechanisms.
Research has shown that the synergistic actions between regions of the brain that relate to the theory of mind, self-referencing, emotion, reward, and memory constitute the neural basis of pride. Different types of pride activated some overlapping neural regions, and the differences reflected specific psychological components. The neural comparison of pride and basic emotions revealed that the mechanism of pride was more complex. The activated brain regions not only contained sensory and perceptual processing, but also were involved in higher cognitive functions such as the theory of mind, self-reference, and self-reflection. A comparison of neurological and physiological studies found that the brain regions activated by pride and different moral emotions overlapped more than did basic emotions. Specifically, pride and gratitude, the two positive emotions, activated the important brain regions involved in the theory of mind and reward processing, and there was a great overlap among guilt, shame, embarrassment, self-esteem, and other emotions in the brain regions involved in the theory of mind and self-reference. The inconsistency of the results was manifested in the activation of the medial prefrontal cortex, a region related to the theory of mind and self-reflection. These results suggest to some extent that the development of complex cognitive functions is an important basis for the formation of pride. The generation of pride, different moral emotions, and self-conscious emotions is based on the cognition and attribution of the intention and behavior of oneself and others, and influence each other in the process of occurrence and development. These findings provide the basis for understanding the complex neural mechanisms of pride. 
Current studies on the neural mechanism of pride mostly focus on the individual level and use fMRI to compare the neural basis of pride and different emotions. The differences in the existing research conclusions need to be further explored. Therefore, future research should explore the neural mechanisms of different types and intensities of pride, and use ERP to investigate the interaction between pride and cognitive processes such as perception, evaluation, and decision making in order to reveal the neural mechanism of pride from a multi-dimensional perspective.

Key words: pride, self-conscious emotion, moral emotion, basic emotion, neural basis

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