Positive Sum Status?

Here is Katja Grace on fragmented status.

Maybe I feel good because I win at board games often, but you don’t feel bad if you don’t – you just quit playing board games and hang out with people who care about politics instead, because you have a good mind for that.

This is a popular retort to the fear that seeking status is zero sum, so any status I get comes at the cost of someone else’s status. I think it’s very weak.

That people split into different pools and think theirs is better than others suggests (though does not prove) that the net value of status is more than zero. Disproportionately many people think they are above average, so as long as status translates to happiness in the right kind of way, disproportionately many people are happy.

The interesting question though – and the one that the above argument is intended to answer – is whether my gaining more status always takes away from your status. Here it’s less clear that the separation of people into different ponds makes much difference:

The post is good throughout. I actually think the self-assessment issue is more interesting. As Grace also says, “status is about what other people think your status is.” Otherwise, what would be the point? Maybe people all do think themselves to be above average, but they really do care about their relative ranking in the eyes of other people, who will not be so biased. So they will act in ways that reflect a concern for their purely relative ranking in the eyes of others despite their apparent ability to promote themselves in personal assessments. In other words, probably not many positive sum status bargains are possible, and people are primarily concerned with zero sum adjustments to their status.

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