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The Need for Superiority


Explanations > Needs > The Need for Superiority

Need | Example | Related to | Discussion |  So what?




We like to feel superior to other people, that we are somehow better. While we like to be friends with others, we also want to be better than them.

While it is nice for others to recognize our superiority, offering us status and esteem, this is not necessary and it can be sufficient just that we feel superior.


 A teenager acts arrogantly with their parents, looking down on them as stupid and uncaring, even though they are neither.

A person who feels unimportant has fantasies about being a superhero. They also work hard to carve out a niche where they can feel they know more. Unsurprisingly, it is in the superhero comic genre.

A person at work works hard for high performance ranking and consequent promotion, largely so they can feel superior to others.

Related to


Part of Related to
Identity Status, Esteem, Friendship



The need for superiority can be seen when people act arrogantly, assuming that they are more knowledgeable, powerful, moral and so on. We also gain a sense of superiority when we display knowledge, skill and so on, for example when we solve problems that are vexing other people.

People with lower power may seem to be inferior, particularly in social settings where power is important. However, they still need to feel superior, and so make excuses for their shortcomings, at least to themselves. When they feel unable to do this publicly, they talk about it to themselves or close friends, for example criticizing others or bemoaning their own bad luck. They may also take autonomous action, perhaps even destructive, just so they can feel they are not completely inferior to others.

So what?

If you want people to like you, help them to feel superior, particularly in areas where you do not need superiority, for example praising their skills in making coffee or creating slides. This can be particularly useful when you praise their ability in an area where you want them to do something for you. Being made to feel superior, they will want to confirm this by displaying their praised skill.

See also

Power, Values, The Psychology of Height

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