Econstudentlog

Conspicuous

Smbc. Danes who haven’t already done so can get a good laugh reading along here (Danish stuff), if they like this kind of stuff.

When people engage in discussions such as those at the link (‘who’s the smarter professor?’/’who get’s to say who’s the smarter professor?’/’how do we decide who’s the (highest status) professor’), I like to imagine in my head a small group of male monkeys posturing, trying to figure out who’s the stronger one; the one that gets to mate with the females in the tribe. I find it quite cute when very smart and hardworking people engage in status games with the people they consider their peers. They behave like children but don’t realize it. (I would have said …we, but I don’t belong to that group. Though it’s probably cute too to some other people when I do similar stuff..)

Also, academics in countries like Denmark like to point out that they’re not in it for the money. That’s probably true. They’re in it for the status. The kind of status that money can’t easily buy. Even if they like to think so, their motives are not somehow fundamentally different, somehow more ‘pure’, than the motives of people who are ‘in it for the money’. Everybody like to think that the kind of status they have relatively much of is the most important kind of status there is, or maybe even ‘…the only kind of status that matters’.

July 8, 2011 - Posted by | Psychology

6 Comments »

  1. Mangler der ikke et ord i anden rude? Eller to? Jeg kan ikke få sætningen til at gå op, selv om jeg nok forstår den.

    Comment by info | July 9, 2011 | Reply

    • Det synes jeg såmænd ikke der gør..

      Comment by US | July 10, 2011 | Reply

  2. Multiple kinds of status is a *good* thing, you know. Given diminishing marginal returns on expenditures and positional good, it’s more efficient to have many kinds of status. (May not be Pareto-improving, though, which shows that being Pareto-efficient is neither necessary nor sufficient for being utility-maximizing.)

    Comment by gwern | October 22, 2011 | Reply

  3. Multiple kinds of status is a *good* thing, you know.

    Do I say anything to the opposite effect in the post? I don’t think so, I just think status games which are very obviously just about status and does not in any way relate to me are funny to watch; but either way it’s a good point that diversifying your status-enhancing activities somewhat is likely optimal if you’re going the ‘optimize status’-route. Though not too much – there’s likely a non-zero participation constraint you need to satisfy to obtain measurable status gains from pretty much any activity, consisting of some relevant set of variables like work/hours put in/levels achieved on ‘Nightmare difficulty’/ect. – if you spread out too thin, you might end up wasting your time for nothing.

    Just to be clear, am I to understand that you implicitly equate status-maximization with utility-maximization in the parenthesis? If so, why?

    Comment by US | October 22, 2011 | Reply

    • When you post an entire article mocking status and in particular, there being different kinds of status, it’s hard not to read it as ignoring the good things about multiple kinds of status.

      > there’s likely a non-zero participation constraint you need to satisfy to obtain measurable status gains from pretty much any activity, consisting of some relevant set of variables like work/hours put in/levels achieved on ‘Nightmare difficulty’/ect

      My own explanation of why there isn’t one kind of status for each person was more like ‘status involves the respect of others’, so a kind of status has to be distributed over multiple people. (You can have status without doing anything to merit it – aristocracy and ‘nobility’ comes to mind.)

      > Just to be clear, am I to understand that you implicitly equate status-maximization with utility-maximization in the parenthesis?

      Continuing above, if new kinds of status are created, old statuses lose, if only mindshare. If money is the only determinant of status and then someone invents a video game status, Bill Gates loses, even if tons of people gain by moving up the video game status ladder. That is, the new status is not a Pareto-improving change because someone (Bill Gates) lost by it, even though it is ridiculously more utility-maximizing. One of the things that annoys me about many economics discussion is the implicit equation of Pareto-improvements with desirable.

      Comment by gwern | October 22, 2011 | Reply

      • Maybe this got a bit messy, but you made me think about this stuff for a while so that’s always something.

        Anyway, I don’t think I was mocking status and there being different kinds of status in the post, what I was doing was implicitly mocking specific people engaging in what I consider stupid status games, as well as those games. I know there are lots of different types of status depending on a variety of factors, but I don’t really see why I should care about that on a philosophical level (whether I think that’s a good thing or not) – I don’t think about whether it’s a good thing or not that I can see starlight at night, I just can, these stars are part of this universe and that’s all there is to it. I know all the status stuff is impossible to get away from because everybody think about it all the time and form their behaviour around it, but I still really dislike status games. Those games most often seem to me like they’re negative-sum games and it’s a status-decreasing activity to me to partake in them.

        I dislike status games in part because I like to think of myself as low-status so if I played these games I’d lose, and then what’s the point of playing? – ‘low-status guy’ is my ‘persona’ (see the recent youarenotsosmart-related post). I know I’d probably like these games more, and care more about my ‘status in general’, if I were to consider myself a higher-status individual, an observation which is consistent with the fact that I haven’t always been as hostile to them as I am now. I also know that not caring much about status implicitly can be considered an attempt to influence status positively and maybe that’s part of why I do it.

        You can’t even trust yourself here. Add to that that a lot of human interaction seems to me like behaviour where there’s a strong undercurrent driving people to try to trick others into thinking that they’re smarter, stronger, better than they are. This is silly. I know that I care about what people who are not close to me think about me, but that doesn’t make it right. I don’t think I should and I try to tell myself not to. Again, this is likely just a consequense of me thinking that I’m low-status.

        Anyway, people tend to mock status variables they don’t care about. This is surely part of why I mocked those professors and their elaborate arguments about how best to measure their relative merit based on their academic accomplishments. A Trekkie can be one of the very high-status guys in his community; but if you remove him from the convention center while he’s still wearing his spacesuit and a very cool mask of Hikaru Sulu and you put him in a room full of football-fans, well, he’ll not exactly be the hero of the day/episode.

        As to the ‘Pareto-improvement = desirable outcome’, I’m pretty sure I’ve already had that discussion with Plamus at some point. I agree with you, the two don’t necessarily overlap.

        Comment by US | October 22, 2011


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