Reading most of the comments you can see people generally agree with the, say, subjective view of status. If you percieve yourself as high status, you are, then, high status.

But it's also clear to me that there is an objective dimension of status. Although everything ultimately is interpretation, it seems awkward to think that a bullied teen (or a ignored one) will continuously keep the belief that he is doing good. 

Maybe the bridge is the amount of attention you get. It's very dificult to lie to yourself about your qualities when there is nobody out there reinforcing your perception.

I always had that intuition of zero-sum game. I try not to think too much about it, because it's one of the most depressing insights I think you can get.

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This is Emerson's discourse on "compensation": http://www.bartleby.com/5/1...

The concept broadly means every benefit comes with a correspondingly offsetting negative, such as species with high birth rates typically come with low life expectancies. Emerson felt this was true at any scale: cellular, individual, groups, the planet, etc.

Like smoke and fire, if you see a positive trait, there must be a negative lurking nearby. Thinking about gain-loss psychology, there's a stronger incentive to mask the negative than there is to display the positive.

Two ways of managing negative traits:1. force yourself to the average, like a political independent.2. join a self-sustaining group (employers, service providers, marriage partners) of individuals that share your negatives, and therefore aren't prejudiced to your negatives.

As far as drawing a connection between this observation and your post? If people join groups to hide or minimize the impact of negatives, then people don't create fragmented groups to gain status, but to avoid losing status.

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One way to get something like status without disagreements is to index ponds to each person judging their status, while allowing that "x is in y's pond" and "y is in x's pond" may differ in truth-value. The chessplayer can recognize that you don't care about chess but still can feel like he's gaining status by beating you (he includes you in his pond while agreeing he's not in your pond).

For example, the chessplayer could have a higher sense of the significance of chess skill than you. You still "disagree" but only about values.

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The corollary: people will gravitate to situations where they have status and avoid situations where they don't have status.

The might be the purest way to think of success in life, ability to seize opportunity and avoid frustrations. Failure to do so is a very negative sign.

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High status isn't necessarily good for health and well being over the long haul, well at the highest level anyway. While lots of primate research (on baboons) does show health benefits to status, I believe there was a recent study which showed that at the very top of the status ladder there was a great deal of health costs due to the stress of maintaining position.

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The development of communications technology pushes toward more unified status markets by lessening barriers to symbolic competition.  In the ancient Islamic world, status competition was intense in a sphere of symbolic competition that spanned from southern Spain to Iran. The significance of status fragmentation today is relatively small.

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(Too late to be read, but...)

And yet, I'd be inclined to say that the average status of humans has increased since the days of God-appointed absolute monarchs ruling over legions of serfs - the king and a few aristocrats may be somewhat higher-status than our own elites, but the median person was so much lower in status that this easily compensates.

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Perhaps the idea that Will has is that he can change what he cares about (to the things he is good at), while others don't have to and can keep feeling better than him about the things he is bad at. The less mutual status relationships becomes (I can care about being better than you but not bad for being worse than me) the better off we can all be.

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There is another way of looking at this. In many ways of measuring status, you don't even need a realistic perception of how other people see you relative to that group. You can just percieve a status, and that's that.

For instance, most people consider themselves better than average drivers. Their reasoning doesn't have to have anything to do with their actual driving skill, because it's not a skill where a significant number of people are going to comment on their ability to drive - unless they're atypically bad at driving and get into accidents.

Likewise, people can choose to think of themselves as having the status that was most meaningful to them, at some former point in time. For instance, the former high school athlete still living off his past feats isn't going to be challenged on his athletic prowess status, because the gain in status from the high school championship is frozen in time, always there to comfort him, with no one or few to challenge his perception of how events actually played out. The guy who is flipping burgers after high school, but somehow managed a high ACT score, can still consider himself incredibly capable - he can always just say it was the circumstances or 'bad luck' that got in the way.

I follow international soccer, and although his comments are always biased and never insightful, Pele, once a player so good countries stopped a war to watch him play, always makes the most incredibly boastful comments as if he believes people are still hanging on his every word (and hey, it doesn't hurt that ESPN often obliges). No doubt, he does. Even though he's just an old man hanging onto past glories. Based on current comments and performance, he shouldn't have a high status. But to him, and presumably also to many of his fans from the past, his status remains elite. If still treats their most valued status at one point in time as their current status, it's no longer a zero sum game.

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Seeing that high status seems good for  health and well being, is there a way that we can fool ourselves into thinking we are high status? 

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The guy that the woman in your homeprefers could also beat the crap out of you, leave you permanentlybrain damaged and disfigured, take your house and all yourpossessions, and then move on to a woman he likes better. That isn'tzero sum, it is negative sum. Everyone but him is worse off, and heisn't enough better off to make up the difference.You couldmitigate your losses by deciding you like to be a victim and becomethis guy's thrall and pretend to yourself that you have vicariousstatus by being the slave of a guy with high status. Tribalaffiliation is like that, people have loyalty to abusive leaders whenthey perceive the leaders to be “tough” and “high status”,even when those leaders do things against their interests. That isthe essence of Stockholm Syndrome, accepting and making the best of abad situation (and deluding yourself that you like it) to avoid aworse situation.

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The total sum has to be zero if status is measured as (or a proxy there of) the number of people beneath minus the number above. If N is the number of status races, then in the limit N equals the total number of participants. Everybody is in there own race. SUM(0 - 0) = 0

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Yes, there are winners and losers in competition for scarce resources.  Does your success or failure in this competition change your status, or does it simply demonstrate your current status?

This is a trick question.  Perception is key.  You can fail successfully (Can you believe I got <famous baseball="" player=""> to pay so much for that apartment?) or miserably (Can you believe <corporate kingpin=""> got that apartment when I deserved it?).  You can also win successfully (Can you believe I'm paying so little for this apartment?) or miserably (The price of this apartment is going to bankrupt me!).

My perception of my own status remains unchanged after failing to secure the Park Avenue apartment.  My peers may not feel the same way.  Which is exactly what I said in my earlier post.

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"I am not diminished by the success of others, nor am I improved by the failure of others."As long as you are not bidding against baseball players and corporate kingpins for an apartment on Park Avenue, you are completely correct.  Or not trying to acquire any other resource that other humans would like to acquire.  

Are you successfully able to meet those preconditions for your statement to be correct?  Is your life really improved by circumscribing your behavior thusly just to get that statement to be true?

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At one end of a spectrum is zero-sum.  All we are doing is slicing up a pie.  When the amount you get is increased, it is entirely balanced by the net amount by which other's pieces are decreased.  

At the other end is some sort of Pareto relationship.  On the margin, your addition to or exclusion from the pool makes no difference to the pie size of anyone else.  Indeed, the collective pie is almost certainly bigger than the sum over pies if the collection of people were broken up into smaller sets, reflecting economies of scale and efficiencies of specialization.  

I can't imagine that we cant be somewhere between these extremes in real life.  And status with a sort-of sliding scale of pools would seem to be between.  In my own home, I get to sleep with the woman who lives there.  If another guy comes along who she prefers, maybe he makes a lot more money and I get a jet ski out of the deal, but I lose exclusive mating rights.  In a small academic department, I might be the expert on cellular telephones.  Hire in a younger brighter researcher in cell phones, and that will probably change.  Maybe my status will go up in the external world as I write joint papers with this youngster, but there will be losses as well.  

My reading of Friedman did not suggest at all that he thought "more ponds mean more status for all."  Rather, it came across to me as the very reasonable suggestion that if status tends to fall somewhere between zero sum and Pareto, that an interesting measure that might distinguish one form of efficiency in societies might be WHERE along that spectrum status in that society falls.  

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Interesting topic. Where I disagree is that you seem to assume there is an objective, universally agreed to way to sort the fish. We each have different values and goals. Within a pond, I can desire to be the fish furthest to the right, to the left, moving at the fastest pace, with the prettiest color, biggest fish, smartest, most conscientious, and so on. In theory there are as many rankings as there are fish. And we do not have to leave the pond. In a way, we are all top fish on our chosen dimension.

The odd thing is that it is also possible to be bottom fish on just about every dimension. It is all about how we define the hierarchy. Those choosing to be losers will be. Those choosing to define the hierarchy based upon their values will be able to feel good about their status.

Status is not an objective thing. It is subjective, and our sense of accomplishment does not require that we conform to others. Even if everyone else views winning as getting the most points, I can still define it as getting the most points while playing fairly, or just as trying harder than everyone else.

The other retort to subjective pride is that status games are REALLy about acquiring mates. This is of course just genetic reductionism gone astray. I refuse to define myself by what is best for my genes. I enjoy food regardless of my need for calories, I enjoy sex even when using birth control, and I value pride in accomplishment and status even in fields where others don't.

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