Early this Monday morning, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced on the Kensington Palace Twitter account that they are expecting a baby next spring. The news has us all BIRGing.
The acronym is a psychological term that stands for “basking in reflected glory.” First documented in 1970s sports research headed by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., it describes a common psychological response to successful, happy news about a group or notable person you identify or associate yourself with — be that a sports team, political group, or particularly relatable Duchess.
I spoke with Elizabeth Delia, Ph.D., a professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management who has done research on BIRGing, about the phenomena, which she explained as a self-esteem mechanism where individuals affiliate themselves with successful others. “While the concept was termed in a sport setting,” she noted, “it is possible to BIRG in just about any context.”
Cialdini’s research showed that after a sports team won a game, fans would more frequently use the word “we” to describe the team’s exploits, and would more frequently don that team’s apparel. They were connecting themselves to the success of their team, and that connection increased their self-esteem.
A similar process can apply in the context of a celebrity happening like the royal pregnancy. Delia explained that a BIRGing-induced self-esteem boost is likely for anyone “who closely follows the royal family,” or identifies with either party, including those in the United States who were happy to see an American marry Prince Harry.
BIRGing and the self-esteem boost it provides, according to Delia, are good things. And it’s natural for the feelings to ebb and flow. “The news of the royal couple’s pregnancy will lessen in a few days, and so will that boost in self-esteem,” she says, but we can expect a reprise of the happy feelings as the pregnancy progresses. “The BIRGing will likely spike again as people receive news and see pictures throughout Meghan’s pregnancy, and of course, when their baby is born,” Delia explains.
Because BIRGing increases self-esteem, it brings us happiness, says Delia. “Our self-esteem is derived mostly by our own identities — who we are, how we see ourselves — but BIRGing is a nice bonus” that Delia likens to “the cherry on top of a sundae.”
So today, here’s to Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, their little one on the way and our cherry on top. We’ll be rooting for them and waiting for those baby photos!
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