BIRG & CORF – New Age Literary Terms

large_open_bookToday we tackle BIRG and CORF. A double header today. While two different concepts, BIRG and CORF go hand in hand with each other, it is difficult to talk about one without mentioning the other.


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BIRG stands for, Basking in Reflected Glory. This is a self-serving action of an individual who latches themselves onto a successful individual (or group of people) and attributes their success to their own. Other’s accomplishments are the persons accomplishment.

Linking to another’s success is enough to stimulate self glory. Someone can be directly linked to a person, which is known as Personal BIRG, and not directly connected, known as Outside BIRG.

**NOTE: Personal BIRG and Outside BIRG are terms I made up.

Personal BIRGing deals with having a direct connection with an individual. This may be a family member, a friend, or a work colleague. A parent may have a bumper stick for their child who is on the Honor Roll, or a friend winning a competition.

Outside BIRGing, or External BIRGing, deals with having no direct connection to the successful individual(s). This could be a sports team, or even a political party. Maybe even an actor/actress winning an award. Whomever this person is, you have no direct connection to them, yet feel a personal sense of pride when they do well.

The connection between Personal and Outside is the concept that someone is ‘basking in reflected glory’, of an achievement they didn’t actually earn. This is a component of Social Identity Theory. Social Identity is an individual’s self-concept derived from perceived membership of a social group. People imbue their self-concept on those they perceive with high self-esteem, even if this attribute is not based in reality. A persons public image is often different from who they really are. Other attributes that attract a person to their social identity is attractiveness, competence, likeability, and being morally good.

To a degree, BIRGing is on par with Self-Serving Bias. It is used to counter threats to self-esteem and to maintain positive relationships to others. Generally if others can share in the reflected glory, it builds better relationships.

The positive of BIRGing is increased self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. Though the negative can be, if done to excess, is a delusion of their identity and overall hurt self-esteem when they realize they can’t measure up themselves, knowing they ultimately didn’t do anything to have success.

A study into BIRGing found that men get a testosterone rise when ‘their’ team is winning, and a decrease when said team is losing. This suggests that BIRGing is as much a physiological process as well as psychological. While this can be healthy, if done to an excess, this can be seen as a drug. I am not aware of any studies done on women, but imagine that there is a similar effect for them as with men, dealing with a pleasurable reward.

Another interesting example of BIRGing is brand loyalty. Those who purchase Apple products tend to only purchase Apple products and defend any shortcomings it has and quick to point out shortcomings of other products, in this case, PC’s.

The flip side to this is Cutting Off Reflected Failure (CORF). Simply put, people are quick to disassociate with those of lower status to protect their own reputations, in fear of being seen as or being linked to failure.

CORFing also can be seen as Personal CORFing and Outside CORFing. Personal CORFing, unlike Person BIRGing, can be both direct and indirect.

Direct Personal CORFing is when a person lets it be known they find someone else undesirable. They may have had a personal connection with that person prior, or never had one. This can be seen in schools were popularity is important. Having a social structure tends to keep people in key places, those some can rise and fall. Talking to the wrong person can lead to be publicly humiliated. Bullying can be also a direct Personal CORFing, in that you are making yourself look good while making them look bad.

Indirect Person CORFing is basically a form of ostracize a person. Possibly give them the silent treatment, or avoiding them. Spreading rumors about someone is a good way to ensure that others feel as you do. This way, they are powerless to reverse the damage done to them, and they are even more cut off.

In the Breakfast Club, Claire tells Brian that she wouldn’t be friends with him if she ever saw him around school. She also states that none of them would be friends with each other due to them trying to protect their image, though she believes that Brian doesn’t have an image to protect. This would be a good example of Indirect Person CORFing. Bender reacts angrily to her and using Direct Personal CORFing, tells her off.

Outside CORFing would simply disliking something you perceive as weak or a failing entity. Generally you simply don’t like it and move on. If brought up in conversation, you might list a few details of what you don’t like about it, and you might try to convince others to dislike it. For the most part, it is out of sight, out of mind.

It is possible for someone to institute BIRGing and CORFing for the same thing. This is what we call Jumping the Bandwagon. In this case, we love something when it succeeds and hate something when they fail. This is more of a case of Self-Serving Bias,

An example of this would be the original Karate Kid. Daniel’s first fight with Johnny saw a group of Daniel’s ‘friends’ cheer him on. However, after a humiliating defeat, those people quickly turned on him, and just left him there.

Helping Writers

We would love to believe that we are noble creatures and would never do anything for our own selfish needs, and yet, we would. Protecting ourselves is important. Our happiness is what gets us from sun up to sun down.

Often times however, we can’t find happiness within ourselves and must find substitutes to make ourselves complete. Happiness by Proxy. We look for the success of others to help boost ourselves. Maybe our company gets the most sales for the month or our sports team won the super bowl.

To that effect, we want to be winners. Very few people actively seek to be losers. Those who want to be winners don’t want any association with anything that is a failure. However, we don’t actively seek to cut people out of our lives that we perceive to be a failure or weak, though often times we might do it subconsciously.

Your characters want to be winners, they want to succeed, and may decide the best way to do that is surround themselves with people that will help them succeed. More than that, they may associate themselves with someone they perceive as a winner. Whether an individual or a group of people.

This could be as simple as a star athlete or an entire sports team. There are however fans that love a team no matter if they win or lose, and those fans that will quickly find something to hate if they lose.

Remember, that on a conscious level, your character may believe they are good and happy, but on a subconscious level, are capable of being selfish and needing others to make them happy. This is what BIRGing and CORGing is all about.

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