Beyond Wealth and Fame: 9 Things That Improve Social Status


I am grateful for what I am and what I have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how much one can be satisfied with nothing definite, only a sense of existence. how I laugh when I think of my vague and undefined riches. No run on my bank can empty it – for my wealth is not a possession but an enjoyment.“—Henry David Thoreau to HGO Blake in a correspondence dated December 6, 1856

Humans are social animals. As a highly social species, people around the world have evolved to emphasize certain factors that raise or lower social status. Discussing social status or admitting that one cares about one’s social standing can seem cheesy and rude. Many of us may aspire to higher social status, but no one wants to be called an “ambitious social climber” who ruthlessly climbs his way up the social ladder.

To date, there has been relatively little peer-reviewed research on the universal criteria surrounding social status or the degree to which social status criteria vary from culture to culture. So far, there has also been surprisingly little research on gender-based differences in criteria of social status in different nations.

Recently, a one-of-a-kind study (conducted before Coronavirus pandemic) of 2,751 people from 14 countries identified a comprehensive list of universally valued traits and characteristics that can increase (or decrease) a person’s social status as well as the “gender differences and similarities” associated with these criteria.

This paper (Buss, Durkee, Shackelford et al., 2020) by a team of evolutionary psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin was published online May 27 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“Humans live in a social world in which relative rank counts for almost everything: your access to resources, your ability to attract mates and even how long you live” David buss, who is one of the lead authors of the study, said in a June 2 statement Press release. “From an evolutionary perspective, resources relevant for reproduction flow to those with high status and slowly, if at all, flow to those lower on the social totem pole.”

For this study, the researchers compared how 2,751 men and women from 14 countries assessed 240 social status factors. Then they distilled those factors into a handful of universal social status criteria. The wide range of cross-cultural human status criteria they assessed included “acts, characteristics, and events” that appeared to help or hinder someone’s social status in the eyes of others.

Nine factors (beyond wealth and fame) that can improve social status

  1. Be honest
  2. Bravery
  3. Good sense of humor
  4. Worker
  5. Possess a wide range of knowledge
  6. Intelligence
  7. Kindness
  8. Leadership skills
  9. Make sacrifices for others

In terms of fall down On the social scale, researchers have also identified certain factors that decrease a person’s social status. Across cultures, being known as a thief, spreading sexually transmitted diseases, or being mean and mean, are all factors that can lower a person’s social status and lead to being excluded from their peer group and their community. social network.

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“From the Gypsies of Romania to the indigenous islanders of Guam, people with intelligence, bravery and leadership rise in the eyes of their peers, but having qualities that are dear to others will cause your status to drop, whether you live it. in Russia or Eritrea “, graduate student in psychology at UT Austin Patrick durkee, who co-led this study, said in the press release.

“Although this study was conducted before the current pandemic, it is interesting that being a disease vector is universally detrimental to a person’s status,” Buss noted. “Socially transmitted diseases are ancient evolutionary challenges to human survival, so humans have psychological adaptations to avoid them. Lowering a person’s social status is an ancient evolutionary method of social distancing from disease vectors.”

How do gender differences influence criteria for social status across cultures?

Even in the most sexually egalitarian cultures, the Bus lab researchers have identified universal double standards and gender differences related to the degree to which the social status of women and men is affected by certain behaviors.

Although being viewed as sexually promiscuous can lower the social status of both men and women, a woman’s social status tends to be more affected if she gains a reputation for promiscuity. While a sexually active woman is often “ashamed” to have multiple partners, a sexually active man is often lauded as a “Casanova” if he plays on the field.

By the way: Dolly Parton – who arguably has higher social status than anyone else – uses her self-deprecating spirit, honesty, and clever sense of humor to overthrow some of those double standards based on sex. In numerous interviews, she has shamelessly proclaimed: “The city bum inspired my trashy look.“In a 2003 cover story for Rolling stone, Parton said:

It would scare most people to look this cheap or damn, but to me, I’m comfortable. I modeled my look on the city bum. I thought she was the most beautiful thing in the world. People would say, “Oh, that’s just a garbage can” and I would think, “This is what I want to be when I grow up. “

In another “gender differences” aspect of their study, Buss and colleagues found that being in a long-term relationship improved the social status of both men and women. However, having a long-term partner has a more positive impact on the social status of women than that of men. In all cultures, loyalty seemed to raise the social rank of men and women equally.

In conclusion, this study (2020) from UT Austin, “Human Status Criteria: Sex Differences and Similarities in 14 Nations”, is important because it provides the first systematic documentation of potentially universal and gender-differentiated social status criteria. .

Finally, for anyone with a penchant for witchcraft, there is one final insight: the practice of witchcraft is likely to seriously damage someone’s social standing in Zimbabwe and Eritrea, but seems to have virtually no impact on social status in Estonia, Russia or the United States. .

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