Respect, admiration, aggrandizement: Adam Smith as economic psychologist

Elias L. Khalil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The paper employs Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments to illuminate the difference between respect and admiration, and to differentiate between their distorted forms, viz., pomposity and vanity (aggrandizement). As corroborated by the importance of sunk-costs, the analysis shows that respect and admiration are not ordinary tastes. They are rather by-product feelings afforded by the context of pursuing ordinary tastes. The evaluation of one's 'performance' in light of one's estimated ability originates the feeling of respect (or its opposite, embarrassment). The evaluation of one's 'ability' in comparison to the abilities of others determines the degree of admiration. The expression of respect on the basis of inter-individual comparison of abilities is behind pomposity. The expression of admiration on the basis of inter-individual comparison of possessions is behind vanity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-577
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Economic Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1996


  • Constitutive utility
  • Normal spectator (NS)
  • Pomposity (deference-seeking)
  • Respect utility
  • Sunk-costs
  • Three-station model
  • Two-station model
  • Vanity (status-seeking)
  • Weak spectator (WS)

Cite this