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Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2008 Jul;34(7):978-92. doi: 10.1177/0146167208316734. Epub 2008 May 7.

Everyday conceptions of modesty: a prototype analysis.

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  • 1Center for Research on Self and Identity, School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom.


Good theoretical definitions of psychological phenomena not only are rigorously formulated but also provide ample conceptual coverage. To assess the latter, we empirically surveyed everyday conceptions of modesty in a combined U.S./U.K. sample. In Study 1, participants freely generated multiple exemplars of modesty that judges subsequently sorted into superordinate categories. Exemplar frequency and priority served, respectively, as primary and secondary indices of category prototypicality that enabled central, peripheral, and marginal clusters to be identified. Follow-up studies then confirmed the ordinal prototypicality of these clusters with the aid of both explicit (Studies 2 and 3) and implicit (Study 3) methodologies. Modest people emerged centrally as humble, shy, solicitous, and not boastful and peripherally as honest, likeable, not arrogant, attention-avoiding, plain, and gracious. Everyday conceptions of modesty also spanned both mind and behavior, emphasized agreeableness and introversion, and predictably incorporated an element of humility.

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