The psychology of prestige: why we play the social status game

With social media at our fingertips, we are regularly alerted to the news of a friend’s new car, an ex-colleague being awarded yet another promotion, or the lavish holiday your neighbors have somehow managed to afford. It’s hard to not get swept up in the pursuit of social status.

Far from being a modern phenomenon, we have craved status ever since we were monkeys, when it already offered advantages within hierarchical micro-societies. However, now that status is not so closely linked to our survival, pursuing goals based on the assumed prestige our success will confer can be a bad idea.

For instance, those who choose to study medicine based on the future status of being a doctor could later find themselves unfulfilled in a career they are not truly interested or invested in. Rather than striving for status, we need to find more sustainable incentives for success.

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