Vanity in scientists and intellectuals | Science

Vanity in scientists and intellectuals | Science

The hallmark of vanity is the concern for what others think and say about us. The vain person has a high self-concept, wants to appear intelligent and shows an excessive desire for protagonism and admiration. The vain are people in love with their own image and concerned about the way they are shown to others. They are often ambitious, chameleon, workaholic and overcompetitive. In social situations, the vain person often talks a lot and listens little, except to himself. He likes to be asked about his own, but he does not usually ask or be interested in others. They love success and sinks failure.

In the case of scientists and intellectuals, vanity has its own forms. Rosa Regàs has said that "Vanity is the writer's worst enemy". The vain intellectual is usually more concerned with the rhetoric of his writing and by causing in the audience an impression of intelligence and wisdom than because the message he transmits reaches its destination and is understood. To pretend erudition can do things like abusing references, even those related to characters or works that have not read or know only superficially. If for that reason, or for his rhetoric, crypticism or eloquence someone does not follow him, that is his problem, think without saying it.

Capitalizing on an achievement has a lot to do with human vanity, even in science, which is where you should least have it because what the discoverer puts almost always is the icing

The vain scientist usually recognizes himself immediately, because in his manifestations the names and the index of impact of the magazines where he publishes or the prizes and recognitions received prevail, often leaving the semantics in the background, that is to say, the contents and the scientific relevance or social work done. A crucial aspect that promotes the vanity of scientists is the primacy in the findings, the "I saw it first" or "the idea was mine". Capitalizing on an achievement has a lot to do with human vanity, even in science, which is where you should least have it because what the discoverer says is almost always the icing, in the sense that most of a scientist's findings are based on in a basic body of knowledge, fruit of the work of many others that have preceded it secularly.

A form of vanity that belongs not only to scientists but also to intellectuals in general is the attempt to appropriate topics, topics, procedures or work techniques. Thus, the biologist who has spent years studying a certain protein will feel jealous when his vanity is threatened when another biologist goes to work or publishes on the same substance. A philologist who investigates Quijote may consider the manchego gentleman almost as a private property, and a historian who dedicates himself to Philip II will not always welcome any competition in this regard: Felipe II is mine! I myself am lucky to have focused my scientific work on a technique, the electrical self-stimulation of the brain, which has few followers in the world, but even so neither me nor my colleagues in the research group get rid of a feeling that hurts our vanity when another team of researchers that also works intensively on this technique in a laboratory in India surpasses us in ideas, discoveries and publications.

The vain ones never take their eyes off the competition, although they do so not so much to learn from it as to see if they are being overcome. When a scientist or vain intellectual sees the publication of another that works on similar topics, the first thing he looks at are the bibliographical references of that publication to see if they cite him or if those references are better or more updated than the ones he uses. Then, and always after, or if anything, comes the consideration of the contents, with that prejudice that also always leads the vain to consider that there can be nothing better than him or his in the world.

And the same happens between fiction writers, filmmakers, actors, journalists or diverse professionals in which the corner of the eye is always aware of what those next door or even beyond can do, just in case. The vanity of all of them is also expressed very well in the times they enter their Twitter, Facebook or Instagram accounts every day to see if their followers have increased or if they already outperform their immediate competitors in the numbers or praise received. by those means. When they see the number of those followers go up, they swell even in private, like the peacock. Pavoneo is a noun that gains followers

But where perhaps the feeling of vanity is reflected better and more strongly is in the "Sostenella and not enmendalla", because the vain one is disarmed and has a hard time enduring it when it is rightly contradicted or when it fails in its pretensions. Wounded vanity manifests itself in many ways, since it can generate animosities and hatreds, but the first reaction of the vainly opposed is always the resistance to accept the arguments or facts that compromise or hurt his vanity, hence there are endless polemics, dimes and diretes, public or private, in which the opposing ones do not pretend so much to discover the truth as to justify themselves to avoid the painful recognition of their failure or to recover from old affronts.

One of the main dangers that vanity has is to evolve towards egomania and arrogance.

One of the main dangers that vanity has is to evolve towards egomania and arrogance. Egotropic people are usually arrogant and arrogant, they need to be continuously the center of attention and all eyes and for that they sometimes resort to expressing new opinions or absurd ideas and ideas, provocative, contrary to common sense or away from the politically correct. The egalist Salvador Dalí is credited with the phrase "He who wants to interest others must provoke them." They also tend to abuse mannerisms and verbal tics and they spend time talking to magnify their discourse because they believe they deserve it and feel captive to their audience. All social worlds are full of examples, but perhaps the most special is that of political dictators, since all have been as egotistical as they are perverse.

The further step towards egotism, and the most despicable, always derived from vanity, is pride. Beyond their arrogance, arrogant people criticize frequently and without mercy and can humiliate other people in public, because they lack empathy. They walk frequently in a bad mood, they presume to be right all the time and, above all, they have a hard time controlling their anger, because they have a special propensity for it. Anger is the most distinctive characteristic of pride. They also seek compliance and submission from others, so they hardly relate to those who are not willing to pay homage. That is why they usually generate great false friends, flatterers, and many true enemies, those who are not ready to flatter them.

Living continuously or frequently worried about the impression we give to others is something that seriously compromises the health and well-being of people. It is painful that our mood and emotional well-being are in the hands of what others think or say about us. Vanity makes us live in a world far from reality. If one wants to combat vanity and its derived evils, we must conquer our own trust and, above all, accept more what we are instead of what we would like to be.

Ignacio Morgado Bernal He is Professor of Psychobiology and Director of the Neuroscience Institute of the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Author of Corrosive emotions: How to face envy, greed, guilt, shame, hatred and vanity (Barcelona: Ariel, 2017)


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