Pride Is About Status

We used 3 different … [ways] to test whether the nonverbal expression of pride sends a functional, automatically perceived signal about a social group member’s increased social status.  Results suggest that the pride expression strongly signals high status, and this association cannot be accounted for by positive valence or artifacts of the expression such as expanded size due to outstretched arms. …

The pride expression is a fairly specific signal of high status. … [It] sends a message that is distinct from that of happiness,…  [and] also appears to be distinct from any message sent by anger. … The current results demonstrate that high-status perceptions of the pride expression are unelaborated and automatic. … Previous research has shown that status cues differ for males and females, and that pride recognition rates vary slightly depending on the gender and ethnicity of the individuals who show these expressions. …

The present research suggests that the pride expression functions as a unique signal of high status, and is consistent with the suggestion that pride evolved to serve this purpose. … Pride is spontaneously displayed following status-increasing events (i.e., achievement) even by the congenitally blind, who are unlikely to have learned the expression from cultural models. … The pride expression is reliably recognized in isolated nonliterate cultures.

More here.  Think of the things you do that you tend to feel proud of, and you’ll probably resist the idea that you do these things to raise your status.   In general, remembering the above result will probably make you feel awkward when you feel proud, since we tend to be prudish about admitting we seek status.

Added 11p: When people say “I’m not proud of it but …” they usually mean they don’t respect it.  People almost never respect features in themselves that lower their status, and they think features they respect should gain people status.

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  • Challenge

    Forgive the newby question, but is there a concise list of status promoting and status inhibiting behavior somewhere?

    It’d be nice to consciously focus on learning postures and behaviors that signal status. Like most nerds, I tend to act rather meekly.

    • Marc

      Impro by Keith Johnstone

      But if you want the best empirical understanding of status, and how to improve it, there’s no better source than the PUA’s, for instance, Roissy in DC.

    • Pwno
    • Challenge

      Thank you both

  • Eric Falkenstein

    Gee, if people care mainly about status, not absolute wealth, that would imply they are primarily benchmarking against their peers. I should write a book. But really, think about what a status orientation does to welfare theorems, general equilibrium analysis–all irrelevant. Those were foisting normative ideas about utilitarianism, defined as a convex increasing function of wealth. And then, how should we apply those ideas, such as Pareto Optimality, because making everyone better off implies little about how people’s relative status is affected?

    • Fitness being a relative concept is a standard idea in biology:

      “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail”.

      • Except the social expression is more:

        “It is not enough to succeed. You must be seen to succeed while others appear to fail.”

    • Pwno

      I’ve been thinking about the same thing lately.

      I was also thinking that for utilitarians, there is a philanthropic minimum per status increase. For every status increase, there is dis-utility created for other people who lower in status in exchange. So depending on how far up your status is from subsistence level (or the level where all wealth/status is shared equally by the world), there is a minimum amount of philanthropy you must do (minimum amount of utility to others).

      If we find a function to calculate this minimum contribution, maybe we can reach some equilibrium.

      Note* you might think that if everyone contributed their minimum amount, we would all go back to subsistence level. However, this is not taking into account economies of scale higher status people can take advantage of in contributing their minimum utility.

    • nazgulnarsil

      yes, status is zero sum while the living standards can be positive sum (due to our underutilization of free neg-entropy from the sun. when we eventually return to malthusian subsistence living standards will be zero sum again).

  • Let your light shine.

  • Jonas

    We have to come to grips with the fact that we are a bunch of monkeys. Still, we don`t like to think about ourselves that way. That is a reason why we resist the idea that we show pride in order to raise our status. It just seems dull and simple-minded, not appropriate for creation’s crowning glory. I am not saying that every action serves the purpose of maximizing an actor`s dual utility function, but pride does.

  • Jonas

    It is still debatable, how emotions (like pride) and rationality are connected.

    Possible connections:

    1) Emotions interfere with rationality
    2) Emotions serve rationality
    3) Emotions and cognition are inextricably entangled with each other. Isolated rationality is a myth

    • All three statements are true depending on several aspects of the situation. Number one is always true when your emotions are unusually strong, for example.

      • Jonas

        Thank you for your remarks. I will have to think about it first though. This has a lot of implications for micro-economic theory. Emotions are not really considered in the models, although they are essential for the subject matter. Maybe classical and even more improved RC-Models are totally not up to date anymore. The one that still makes the most sense to me is the RREEMM-model by Siegfried Lindenberg.

  • anarkst

    “We used 3 different … [ways] to test whether the nonverbal expression of pride sends a functional, automatically perceived signal about a social group member’s increased social status.”

    Wow, you guys have waaaay too much time on your hands. But, having said that, perhaps you can consider the following:

    “If you had ten cameras focused on the same person on Earth (at intervals of ten light years distance), [1,000,000,000mp resolution], what would the time difference suggest about that individual’s social standing if a group of people decided (at 30 light years distance) to go to the local alternative movie house and view a midnight showing of, “Metropolis?”

    • Arthur

      This question exceeds my intellectual capacity.

      Rough guess: what would it suggest? Nothing, unless the picture is derived on the principle of matter analyses, which would mean that every peace of matter is in some way affected by every other piece of matter in the universe. Then, in theory it would be possible to extrapolate the particular individual`s social standing from the time difference in consideration of the fact that a group of people decides to see a midnight showing of Metropolis (at 30 light years distance). This would also imply the information of that individual`s social standing and the group`s decision to see metropolis was already around, when it all started with the big bang.
      This closes the logical loop, because we are at that “nothing” point again.

      This is supposed to be funny, but it is arguable if Germans (like myself) even understand what humor really is.

  • Anonymous Rex

    Think of the things you do that you tend to feel proud of, and you’ll probably resist the idea that you do these things to raise your status.

    I agree that I am proud of things that raise status, but I think there’s an important distinction:

    I am proud of the things I think should raise my status, and I am often “anti-proud” of things which actually raise my status (that is, more than they should).

  • B

    Why are we prudish about admitting we do things to get status? Is that about status-seeking too?