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Most people dislike those who boast, but there are occasions, it seems, when bragging can enhance your reputation.

According to the latest research from scholars at the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania and London Business School, bragging can be beneficial if it gives the listener information that shows another side to your character.

The scholars looked at the particular example of people who volunteer for a charity or social project, says Jonathan Berman, assistant professor of marketing at LBS and one of the researchers on the paper.

If an investment banker brags about having spent an afternoon volunteering in the local soup kitchen, he or she may be judged more altruistic than previously thought — even though it is clearly a boast. But, if a social worker volunteers for the same role, there would be little benefit to crowing about it, as this person is already deemed altruistic.

“Bragging is going to be more impressive the further away it is from the stereotype people have of you,” explains Dr Berman.

Social media may seen like an ideal tool for those who like to boast, but it can complicate the issue, he continues. A post on Facebook telling everyone about your day in the soup kitchen will impress some friends, offend others.

It is also difficult to assess how to measure success when it comes to bragging, says Dr Berman. If someone is put off by your boasting yet is encouraged to donate to the charity concerned, that could be deemed a positive outcome.

So is there a foolproof way to brag and enhance your reputation? Yes, says Dr Berman: get someone else to do it on your behalf.

The Braggart’s Dilemma: On the Social Rewards and Penalties of Advertising Prosocial Behavior is published in the Journal of Marketing Research

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