Thursday, December 10, 2009

How to attain social status

Scientific American has an interesting article on what causes people to have or lack social status:
Recent work by social scientists has tackled the topic, elucidating behavioral differences between low-status and high-status individuals, and the methods by which those at the bottom of the totem pole are most successful at climbing to the top. ...

Low-status people are much more sensitive to being socially rejected and are more inclined to monitor their environment for threats. Because of this vigilance toward protecting their sense of self-worth, low-status individuals are quicker to respond violently to personal threats and insults. ...

Those who are effective in attaining status do so through behaving generously and helpfully to bolster their value to their group. In other words, low-status individuals’ aggressive and violent behavior is precisely the opposite of what they should be doing to ascend the societal totem pole. ...

People afford greater status to individuals who donate more of their own money to a communal fund and those who sacrifice their individual interests for the public good. Demonstrating your value to a group—whether through competence or selflessness—appears to improve status. Anderson and Aiwa Shirako suggest that the amplifier for this effect is the degree to which one has social connections with others. ...

They showed that individuals who behaved cooperatively attained a more positive reputation, but only if they were socially embedded in the group. Those who behaved cooperatively, but lacked connections went unnoticed. ... Those who were selfish and well-connected saw their reputation diminish. ...

The sum of these findings can begin to explain the troubled circumstances of those lowest in status. ... Instead of ingratiating themselves to those around them – this is the successful strategy for status attainment – low-status individuals may be more prone to bullying and hostile behavior, especially when provoked.
So, to attain a high socioeconomic status, in addition to getting an advanced degree in a high-paying field, you should be helpful to those around you.

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