I listened to a fascinating episode of the You Are Not So Smart podcast while out running over the weekend. The focus was on a new book by Will Storr called The Status Game and he was full of insights.

  • Some of the most important takeaways for me were around:
  • There are three main status games: dominance, virtue, and success
  • Status games are hard wired into us, and we're essentially just 'status detection systems'
  • Social media sites such as Twitter make it easy to signal virtue, whereas those such as Instagram make it easy to signal success.
  • Trying to force people to play your type of status game is about dominance.
  • Status games are why teenagers, who are new to these games, get embarrassed easily and take lots of risks.
  • The types of status games available to you often depend on your socio-economic status. This explains honour killings, quests for dominance, etc.
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In this episode we welcome back author Will Storr whose new book, The Status Game, feels like required reading for anyone confused, curious, or worried about how politics, cults, conspiracy theories communities, social media, religious fundamentalism, polarization, and extremism are affecting us – everywhere, on and offline, across cultures, and across the world.

What is The Status Game? It’s our primate propensity to perpetually pursue points that will provide a higher level of regard among the people who can (if we provoked such a response) take those points away. And deeper still, it’s the propensity to, once we find a group of people who regularly give us those points, care about what they think more than just about anything else.

In the interview, we discuss our inescapable obsession with reputation and why we are deeply motivated to avoid losing this game through the fear of shame, ostracism, embarrassment, and humiliation while also deeply motivated to win this game by earning what will provide pride, fame, adoration, respect, and status.

Source: The game we can’t escape, the psychology behind our perpetual drive to pursue status | You Are Not So Smart