The Local-Ladder Effect: Social Status and Subjective Well-Being

University of California, Berkeley—Haas School of Business, 545 Student Services Bldg. #1900, Berkeley, CA 94720-1900, USA.
Psychological Science (Impact Factor: 4.43). 05/2012; 23(7):764-71. DOI: 10.1177/0956797611434537
Source: PubMed


Dozens of studies in different nations have revealed that socioeconomic status only weakly predicts an individual's subjective well-being (SWB). These results imply that although the pursuit of social status is a fundamental human motivation, achieving high status has little impact on one's SWB. However, we propose that sociometric status-the respect and admiration one has in face-to-face groups (e.g., among friends or coworkers)-has a stronger effect on SWB than does socioeconomic status. Using correlational, experimental, and longitudinal methodologies, four studies found consistent evidence for a local-ladder effect: Sociometric status significantly predicted satisfaction with life and the experience of positive and negative emotions. Longitudinally, as sociometric status rose or fell, SWB rose or fell accordingly. Furthermore, these effects were driven by feelings of power and social acceptance. Overall, individuals' sociometric status matters more to their SWB than does their socioeconomic status.

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Available from: Michael W Kraus, Apr 29, 2014
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    • "Sociometric status is defined as the prestige, prominence, and respect that individuals attain in their face-to-face social groups [4]. Recent theory and research indicate that people who are conferred elevated sociometric status by their peers tend to achieve this social position by demonstrating their value to their social group [1]–[3]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Research examining face-to-face status hierarchies suggests that individuals attain respect and admiration by engaging in behavior that influences others' judgments of their value to the group. Building on this research, we expected that high-status individuals would be less likely to engage in behaviors that violate group norms and expectations, relative to low-status individuals. Adolescent participants took part in an interaction in which they teased an opposite-gender friend (Study 1) or an experiment in which taunting or cheering expectations were manipulated (Study 2). Consistent with the hypothesis, high-status boys and girls engaged in teasing behaviors consistent with their gender roles, relative to their low status counterparts (Study 1). In Study 2, high-status boys engaged in more direct provocation and off-record commentary while taunting, and more affiliative behavior while cheering on their partner, relative to low-status boys. Discussion focused on how expectation-consistent actions help individuals maintain elevated status.
    PLoS ONE 08/2014; 9(8):e104737. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0104737 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "As well, though all members of Congress are likely to be high status members of American society, recent research indicates that local rank comparisons are important in revealing the influence of social status on individual psychological processes (e.g., [10]). For instance, having lower status in one's local community predicts lower levels of life-satisfaction better than national income levels [32]–[33]. Thus, we tested the prediction that relative status differences, even among elite members of society, would predict support for economic inequality. Finally, because members of Congress represent a sample of individuals who are much higher in social status and considerably more wealthy than typical university and national samples (e.g., [34]), the present study provides a unique opportunity to generalize the effects of social status to a group of individuals at the top of society's hierarchy. "
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    ABSTRACT: Economic inequality is at historically high levels in the United States and is among the most pressing issues facing society. And yet, predicting the behavior of politicians with respect to their support of economic inequality remains a significant challenge. Given that high status individuals tend to conceive of the current structure of society as fair and just, we expected that high status members of the U.S. House of Representatives would be more likely to support economic inequality in their legislative behavior than would their low status counterparts. Results supported this prediction particularly among Democratic members of Congress: Whereas Republicans tended to support legislation increasing economic inequality regardless of their social status, the social status of Democrats - measured in terms of average wealth, race, or gender - was a significant predictor of support for economic inequality. Policy implications of the observed relationship between social status and support for economic inequality are considered.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(1):e85293. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0085293 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "Diener et al. (1999) and Lyubomirsky et al. (2005a, b) find that individual circumstances can account for about 10 % of the variance in subjective well-being. Studies of Anderson et al. (2012), Keltner et al. (2003), and Anderson et al. (2001), among others, find that indicators for sociometric status are better than individual circumstances because they are defined locally (i.e., there is proximity) and, of course, defined by the person. "
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    ABSTRACT: The development of a reliable procedure for the aggregation of individual level happiness leads to a proper understanding of group level happiness. Such a procedure is indispensable for a more responsive public policy-making. However, individual self-reports on happiness must meet the dual requirements of cardinality and relative interpersonal comparability in order that aggregation is not problematic and the resulting measure not only makes sense but also useful for group level interventions. The paper demonstrates the procedure for obtaining group level happiness using data from the Philippines.
    Social Indicators Research 11/2013; 114(2). DOI:10.1007/s11205-012-0165-y · 1.40 Impact Factor
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