Humans Seek Status, But How Is Status Valued?

Could status seeking behavior explain for mega bonuses, conspicuous consumption, and crazy rap videos?

Abstract (Via HP)

The striving for status has long been recognized in sociology and economics. Extensive theoretical arguments and empirical evidence propose that people view status as a sign of competence and pursue it as a means to achieve power and resources.A small literature, however, based on arguments from biology and evolutionary psychology, proposes that people pursue status as an (emotional) goal in itself, independent of competence and expressed by culturally flexible symbols.We present results of an experiment with human subjects from five different national cultures.We found that the subjects valued status independently of any monetary consequence and were willing to trade off some material gain to obtain it. Although this result was stable across the five cultures, the intensity of the striving for status and the desirability of a public display of status varied strongly: the intensity of the status motive corresponded to Hofstede’s power distance index of the respective culture. Finally, the amount of status seeking observed differed for men and for women, a preliminary but intriguing observation that deserves further study.

Excerpts (Via HP)

“It has also been suggested, however, that status may be not only a means to an end but also an end in itself, an intrinsic component of an individual’s utility function in addition to the pursuit of resources.”

“Sociologists have unwisely elevated the rational over the emotional in attempting to understand and explain human behavior. It’s not that human beings are not rational—we are. The point is that we are not only rational. What makes us human is the addition of a rational mind to a preexisting emotional base”

“In our experiment, men reacted more strongly to a salient status symbol than did women in all countries (even in the small German sample), except in the Swedish/Finnish sample.”

“People in all cultures crave respect and recognition (e.g., Cialdini 1993, 2001; Güth and Tietz 1990). This suggests that status sometimes may be based not merely on performance but on any culturally accepted symbol, and that people may pursue such a symbol not to gain resources but as an end in itself.”

“Does status have an intrinsic value that influences one’s preferences? We have shown empirically that humans pursue status as an end in itself across cultures: status is worth a positive amount of material gain”

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About Miguel Barbosa

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17. October 2009 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Curated Readings, Psychology & Sociology | Leave a comment

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