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How much of our behaviour is status-seeking?

How much of our behaviour is status-seeking?
Prompted by an article by Eugene Wei, this episode explores the idea of status. We discuss the concept of social status, and wonder to what extent the signalling of status contributes to our own behaviours. We talk about how our schoolboy days were defined by status games.

Some of the highlights from our discussion:

There is a body of research in psychology about people seeking status known as the status hypothesis. The status hypothesis outlines that the desire for status is a fundamental human motive with status defined as respect, admiration and voluntary deference that individuals are afforded by others. Status, in this instance, is distinct from human belongingness and financial success. Status is more how much I am looked up to by others in my own particular field.

What appear to be counter status trends such as minimalism have themselves become status trends. In the case of minimalism, it seems that the fewer things you can portray you have in your house the more stylistic you are. Simplicity culture has become a status game.

Status games operate on different timescales. We often get caught up in short-term status games – for instance, in the playground or on social media – but it’s more important to concentrate on the longer-term status games which are perhaps more implicit because they are seeped into our worldview and value compass. We should all try to be more cognisant of when our decisions are being shaped by the short term status seeking game rather than the more wholesome game of life.

People often get caught in a mimetic trap with regards to status. We are naturally inclined to mimic what other people are doing which leads to a competitive edge to gain status. Taimur discusses how he felt pressure in the second year of university when his peers were doing internships in finance and banking. He felt the pressure that everyone else was doing these internships and that he should try to do one too. Although he knew it wasn’t for him, he still tried it – falling into the mimetic trap of seeking status and trying to position himself alongside his peers.

Deeper happiness to be found in activities that don’t seek status as their primary aim. We are all playing a status game in some form or another. It’s worth recognising that and being introspective about it – making sure that when we are making major life decisions that we are trying to minimise the role of status by thinking more about the long-term effects on our lives more broadly.


  1. Status as a Service - Eugene Wei
  2. Taimur’s twitter (it’s very good)
  3. Happy - Derren Brown
  4. Is the desire for status a fundamental human motive? A review of the empirical literature.

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