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The Status Game: On Social Position and How We Use It

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For centuries, philosophers and scholars have described human behaviour in terms of sex, power and money. In The Status Game, bestselling author Will Storr radically turns this thinking on its head by arguing that it is our irrepressible craving for status that ultimately defines who we are.

From the era of the hunter-gatherer to today, when we exist as workers in the globalised economy and citizens of online worlds, the need for status has always been wired into us. A wealth of research shows that how much of it we possess dramatically affects not only our happiness and wellbeing but also our physical health – and without sufficient status, we become more ill, and live shorter lives. It’s an unconscious obsession that drives the best and worst of us: our innovation, arts and civilisation as well as our murders, wars and genocides. But why is status such an all-consuming prize? What happens if it’s taken away from us? And how can our unquenchable thirst for it explain cults, moral panics, conspiracy theories, the rise of social media and the ‘culture wars’ of today?

On a breathtaking journey through time and culture, The Status Game offers a sweeping rethink of human psychology that will change how you see others – and how you see yourself

437 pages, Kindle Edition

Published September 2, 2021

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About the author

Will Storr

15 books475 followers
Will Storr is a long-form journalist, novelist and reportage photographer. His features have appeared in The Guardian Weekend, The Telegraph Magazine, The Times Magazine, The Observer Magazine, The Sunday Times Style and GQ, and he is a contributing editor at Esquire. He has reported from the refugee camps of Africa, the war-torn departments of rural Colombia and the remote Aboriginal communities of Australia, and has been named New Journalist of the Year, Feature Writer of the Year and has won a National Press Club award for excellence. His critically acclaimed first book, Will Storr versus The Supernatural is published by Random House in the UK. The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone is his first novel.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 140 reviews
Profile Image for Ian.
705 reviews65 followers
June 5, 2022
I listened to the audiobook version of this one. I am struggling a bit with audiobooks just now because I prefer to listen to them in the car, and I do far less driving than I did pre-Covid. Long gaps between listening make it harder for me to keep the thread of a book.

My overall reaction was mixed. The author’s contention is that humans are motivated by an (unconscious) desire for status rather than by wealth or power, although to me the three are so intertwined that it’s hard to distinguish them. Broadly speaking I agree with his point of view and was of a similar mind before reading the book. I did feel though, that he overstated his case at times. I veered between a 3 and a 4-star rating, but I’ve gone for four as there was a lot in here that was useful.

He argues that people compete for status both as individuals and as members of groups. The most obvious form of status is to gain rank and compel others to do your bidding, but it can be achieved in many other ways, for example by adopting the role of a moral enforcer and publicly condemning those who do not adhere to prevailing moral standards. This can lead to public acclaim and raised status for the enforcer and to seriously lowered status for the transgressor. This process has operated at a local level for millennia, with often dreadful consequences, but the advent of social media means it can now be on a global scale. People can also earn status by demonstrating competence to other members of a group - work teams, sports teams etc – in a way that assists all the group members to rise in status. The big problem with status of course, is that it’s relative. Rises in status generally come only at the expense of reductions in status for others.

At one point the author discusses “status drunkenness”, in which very high-status players require more and more affirmation. This is the source of “prima donna” behaviours, where celebrities, CEOs, politicians etc reinforce their status by making others comply with ever more ridiculous demands - a clear dominance display.

There was a really interesting chapter on the “Satanic Panic” of 1980s USA. It’s often described as a moral panic, but the author argues that the psychiatrists and therapists involved were granted huge rises in status. They were deferentially interviewed on TV and were the key speakers at a continuous whirl of conferences; were awarded huge grants for “research”; and were hailed as heroes by the press. I still feel the moral panic had something to do with it, but I can see how the professionals involved had a huge stake in keeping the scare going. There was another discussion on the rise of the “New Left” and the “New Right” that I thought made some valid points.

Some other chapters seemed weaker. One, on the rise of the Nazis, didn’t entirely convince me. Another discussed mass killers, including Ted Kaczynski. I hadn’t known that one of his professors at Harvard forced him into a weird psychology experiment that involved him being ridiculed and humiliated once a week for 3 years. The author suggests this played a part in his subsequent hatred for society. That sounds plausible, but he didn’t mention that Kaczynski himself denied the experiment affected the course of his life. Still - Note to Psychology Professors – don’t force your students into unethical experiments designed to crush their self-respect.

The book has a somewhat depressing and maybe a one-dimensional view of human nature, but it’s also given me a better understanding of what I’ve previously thought were inexplicable behaviours in others. It’s also given me food for thought about my own motivations!
Profile Image for Chris Boutté.
Author 8 books145 followers
July 4, 2022
2nd read:
I read an early copy of this book, and it’s just as good with the 2nd read. To date, there’s still not a better book about human behavior and how we seek status. Will Storr covers so many different aspects of status and what we’ll do for it. I cannot recommend this book enough. It’ll help you better understand humanity in ways that I can’t even describe. Just get the book if you haven’t yet.

1st read:
I recently discovered Will Storr’s fantastic writing when I read his book Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It's Doing to Us, and I was extremely fortunate to get an early copy of this upcoming book. For a long time, I’ve been fascinated by the topic of status. I’m a recovering drug addict who got sober 9 years ago, and I realized that a ton of my depression and anxiety was due to my constant feelings of being less than, but I also had a crazy ego. As I observed the world, I saw that so many of our issues come down to our relative status in social hierarchies, which is why I was so excited to read this book from Will Storr.

Storr recognized how status plays such a major role in our lives and how it affects our well-being. By combining the knowledge and wisdom he gained from writing books like Selfie, he realized that this is a lifelong game that we’re all playing. In this book, Will breaks down the evolutionary reasons for why status is such a major factor in our lives by explaining the science and psychological research. Once he sets up the foundation, he dives into so many important topics such as how social media has affected us as well as our desire to rise to the top by working ourselves to death. The author also covers the fight for status within political groups that make our current problems with polarization even worse.

I can’t sing the praises of this book enough, and I can’t even do justice to all of the interesting topics Storr covers such as the Satanic Panic, cults like Heaven’s Gate, the anti-vax movement and so much more. And as my son approaches his teenage years, I gained a ton from this book that I’ll be able to translate to my son so he learns how to play the status game without losing himself. I honestly can’t think of one person who wouldn’t benefit from this book, so I really hope you take the time to read it and spread the word.
Profile Image for Alexander.
68 reviews45 followers
January 29, 2023
There is a famous quote by the politician Donald Rumsfeld, which goes:

There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know.

In one of his lectures, Žižek astutely pointed out that Rumsfeld did not list the fourth possible pairing in his famous quote, namely "unknown knowns". Status is all around us and inside our heads. Yet, we are blithely ignorant of the primary role it plays in shaping our views of ourselves and others and how we make decisions. Status is like The Elephant in the Brain. We all seek it, including enlightened meditation gurus, Gandhi and Mother Teresa, but we rationalise and make stories about how our decisions are noble and not status-seeking.

Storr argues that not all status games are created equal. While all status games are zero-sum (you get to marry someone while someone else doesn't), some status games have positive externalities while others have negative ones. Idi Amin was a Ugandan warlord, and he was playing a status game just like the rest of us. However, the externalities of his status game were horrific.

Storr has a few recommendations for playing the Status Game to result in positive externalities. First, view other people as being the heroes of their own life stories. If everyone else is the hero of their own story, which character do you want to be in their lives? Of course, you'd like to be a helpful character. Storr calls this game “get along and get ahead”.

Storr distils what he believes to be "good" status games into three categories. They are:

Warmth: When you are warm, you communicate, "I'm not going to play a dominance game with you." You imply that the other person will not get threats from you and that they're in a safe place around you.
Sincerity: Sincerity is about levelling with other people and being honest. It signals to someone else that you will tell them when things are going well and when things are going badly. You will not be morally unfair to them or allow resentment to build up and then surprise them with a sudden burst of malice or aggression.
Competence: Competence signals that you can achieve goals effectively and can be helpful to the group.

I agree with Storr that warmth, sincerity and competence are good status games to aspire towards. However, culture is not something we can just choose to create. There is little we can do to create culture. Culture is something that evolves and emerges, just like our biological bodies, influenced by a multitude of historical causes. In What You Do Is Who You Are, Horowitz argues that the best you can do to instigate cultural change is to embody the games you would like others to play.

Overall, this is a great book. However, I enjoyed The Elephant in the Brain a little more. They are about a similar topic, but the latter is more rigorous.
Profile Image for Sebastian Gebski.
935 reviews808 followers
November 22, 2021
It's a very specific book. 80% of the content is rather predictable and not really revealing. Behavioral psychology, level 100-200. Plus maybe a bit of sociology for more macro-scale analysis as well.

But once in a while, the book is peppered with facts, parallels, observations, and historical references that really made me think. And these gems were really worth my time (and the money I paid for the book).

I find it useful not only to understand others better, but also to learn a bit about myself. Even having 40+ years I identify some behaviors (that I treat as instinctive) I am consistent at, but I don't fully control. At least some of them may be justified by what I've read in this book.

Big plus for some reason when it comes to "new left" and "new right".

The chapters I liked least were: two final ones. The one about communists felt a bit detached from the general topic (at least IMHO) and I find the final recommendations far from being 'crispy' enough (they should be easy to remember, strikingly clear, MECE, etc.).

Still, it's a very good book. In fact, it was so good, that I may return to it just to make more notes for some future reference.
Profile Image for Lien Nguyen.
45 reviews1 follower
November 8, 2021
Find it hard to finish this book. Multiple examples and stories are presented to prove the main point that we human beings are hungry for status, but I find them not convincing. Eventually this status (if his hypothesis is true) will be translated to money/power/sex, which are what we are really fighting for.. so nothing new about that. Cant understand why they call Will Storr is ‘master of story telling’…
Profile Image for Maher Razouk.
646 reviews178 followers
December 24, 2021
تأتي المكانة في أشكال عديدة. قد نكسبها من شيء بسيط مثل في عصرنا: الشباب يربحون مكانا بجوار مسبح الفندق ؛ العجائز يربحون مكانا في القطار. أولئك المحظوظون بما يكفي ليكونوا جميلين يكسبون ذلك من مظهرهم. وجدت مراجعة كبيرة للأدبيات النفسية أن الأشخاص الجذابين يتم الحكم عليهم ومعاملتهم بشكل إيجابي أكثر من غير الجذابين ، "حتى من قبل أولئك الذين يعرفونهم". يتكون جزء كبير من بقية حياة الإنسان من ثلاثة أنواع من السعي وراء المكانة وثلاثة أنواع من اللعبة: الهيمنة والفضيلة والنجاح. في ألعاب الهيمنة ، يتم أخذ المكانة بالقوة أو الخوف. في ألعاب الفضيلة ، تُمنح المكانة للاعبين الذين يتسمون بالواجب والطاعة والأخلاق. في ألعاب النجاح ، تُمنح المكانة لتحقيق نتائج محددة بدقة ، تتجاوز مجرد الفوز ، والتي تتطلب مهارة أو موهبة أو معرفة. المافيا والجيوش هي أمثلة على ألعاب الهيمنة. الأديان والمؤسسات الملكية هي أمثلة على ألعاب الفضيلة. تعتبر الشركات والمسابقات الرياضية أمثلة على ألعاب النجاح.
Will Storr
The Status Game
Translated By #Maher_Razouk
2 reviews
September 5, 2021
A paradigm shifting read

Very interesting conceptual take on society and history. While many of the concepts are not necessarily here and some of the history has been well covered, the overarching narrative drawing it all together felt fairly novel and compelling to me. After reading this I intend to do more research on the topic.
Profile Image for Jacob Williams.
422 reviews7 followers
December 19, 2022
Summary of the book's basic claims:

- We all care about status. We're constantly judging where we fall in relation to others within some hierarchy.
- There are many different hierarchies - "status games" - each with its own rules for gaining/losing status. Most of us participate in several.
- We don't normally realize when our actions are motivated by a desire for status. At a conscious level, we think we're following the rules of the game because they're intrinsically good; subconsciously, we ignore problems with the game because questioning it would risk a loss of status, which would be very painful.
- We're easily driven to behave in extreme, unreasonable, and cruel ways when we sense an opportunity to gain status (or a threat to lose status).
- Status games can be broadly divided into three types: dominance, virtue, success.
- Society generally benefits when success-oriented games are most prominent.

What I like about this perspective: One of my core beliefs about the world is that many of the most bitter, destructive conflicts are caused by overconfidence. Humans are prone to becoming very sure about the right way to run our lives and our societies. It often feels so clear to us that we have the truth, that we believe anyone who disagrees must be stupid and/or evil.

But each side of the disagreement tends to feel that way. Example: when I was younger, I and most people I knew believed abortion is murder. There was no doubt in our minds; it seemed obvious, and our position was supported by a litany of arguments that seemed rock-solid. The pro-choice position seemed so pathetically flimsy that we couldn't really believe people held it in good faith; all that noise about bodily autonomy was a desperate smokescreen to cover their angry rebellion against God...

Later, I became pro-choice and spent more time in communities where everyone was pro-choice. There was, again, no doubt in most people's minds; it was obvious that abortion isn't murder and is an important right; pro-life arguments were riddled with holes and pro-lifers baselessly dismisssed the compelling arguments for making abortion legal. The pro-life position seemed so absurd that it was generally believed to be held in bad faith: pro-lifers can't actually think abortion is murder, that's just a story they tell to cover for their misogyny; opposition to abortion is just the latest manifestation of the millennia-old tradition of trying to control women...

What I want to convey to you is how subjectively similar the experience of being in each of those two communities is. Regardless of which one you're in, you typically feel no doubt that it's the rationally and morally correct one. You're on the side of Good in an important battle against Evil. You feel indignation at the injustices the other side supports. You're both amused and infuriated by the pervasive blatant hypocrisy of your opponents and the vapidity of their arguments. The righteousness of your cause is a source of motivation and satisfaction.

Such feelings are widespread in religion and politics and I think they push us to escalate disagreements further and further until they culminate in violence. Rather than seeing our opponents as fellow-travelers in a confusing world who, like us, are tragically limited by the particular experiences they've had and information they've been exposed to, we're encouraged to see "them" as fundamentally different from "us": as more wicked or more irrational in their heart of hearts than we are. This makes us cynical about the prospect of resolving disputes by persuasion, since we think "they" are inherently not responsive to reason. And at the same time, it makes us reluctant to compromise; compromising with people we perceive to be evil feels immoral, and even compromising with stupidity is tough to swallow. So we're left with simply trying to defeat them - and if we fail to defeat them within the rules of the current political system, our conscience is likely to eventually ask us to fight by any other means available.

Usually I've attributed this tendency toward total certainty to two sources:

- survival benefits: it may help a group of people band together to fight off threats or exploit outgroups
- desire for stability: by ignoring the possibility that you could be wrong, you avoid contemplating the possibility that you may personally need to change

Now, to get to the book: Storr's concept of status games provides another perspective on why we become so confident. We're caught in virtue games, where virtue is signaled - and status gained - by displaying belief in and devotion to the cause. For example, it's easier to gain respect in a community of liberals (conservatives) by loudly denouncing pro-life (pro-choice) views than by having nuanced discussions about them.

This can help explain how some insane beliefs become mainstream: a runaway process of people taking more extreme, aggressive stances to win the praise of their peers. Storr discusses the "Satanic Panic" as an example of such a status "goldrush":

The Satanic Panic was fuelled by status games. They were formed wherever believers gathered, in conferences, seminars, training sessions and organisations such as the Preschool-Age Molested Children's Professional Group, Children's Institute International and the National Center for Child Abuse and Neglect. A survey of more than two thousand psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers who worked with ritual abuse cases found they 'had a very high rate of attending lectures, seminars or workshops concerned with ritualistic crime or ritualistic abuse'. Newcomers would have their ancient tribal coding switched on as they experienced wonderful feelings of connection to the game. They'd then sit gripped as the Satan-hunters wove a new dream for them to live in, and taught them how to earn status within it.

Sessions would often start with horrific, outrage-building testimony. Next, trainee players would be lured with the promise of major virtue status by their battling of what psychiatrist Dr Roland Summit described as, 'the most serious threat to children and to society that we must face in our lifetime'. They were taught rules like the 'Rule of P's' - professions most likely to harbour satanists included providers of daycare, physicians, psychiatrists, principals and teachers, police, politicians, priests, public officials and pall-bearers. Elite players would then lead group discussion sessions during which stray doubters were dealt with; impediments to consensus made quiet.

At training sessions, they'd have further lessons in playing the Satan-hunting game. Rule number one was 'believe the children'. According to Summit, 'the more illogical and incredible' the testimony of a child, the 'more likely' it was to be true. And if they changed their mind and told you, actually, they made it all up, that's 'the normal course' and exactly to be expected; such denials were evidence of the satanists' genius for mind control. Indeed, 'very few children, no more than two or three per thousand, have ever been found to exaggerate or to invent claims of sexual molestation'. Believe the Children became a sacred belief for the Satan-hunters; the rule that defined their game. They wore it on lapel badges; activist parents formed the Believe The Children Organisation. It 'became the banner of that decade', writes sociologist Professor Mary de Young...

Being perceived as someone who is fighting a great evil can feel highly personally rewarding. The problem is that this reward actively blinds you to evidence that the situation may be more complicated. Or, as in the case of the Satanic Panic, that the evil is entirely made-up and you are participating in a reckless witch-hunt.

In Manhattan Beach, California, one daycare centre was pelted with eggs, had its windows smashed and was set on fire, its outer walls graffitied: ONLY THE BEGINNING and DEAD. Parents dug in its grounds searching for a secret labyrinth of tunnels. When unsuccessful, the district attorney hired a firm of archaeologists to assist. When they too were unsuccessful, the parents hired their own archaeologists. Nobody found any tunnels. Nevertheless a survey of that community found 98 per cent thought one of the accused, Ray Buckey, was 'definitely or probably guilty' with 93 per cent thinking the same of Peggy McMartin-Buckey; 80 per cent had 'no doubt' of their guilt. When she was bailed, following twenty-two months of pretrial detention, Peggy was shunned, received late-night telephone death threats and was verbally and physically assaulted.

...190 people were formally charged in ritual abuse cases and at least eighty-three convicted. One man was convicted almost entirely on the testimony of a 3-year-old. Many spent years in prison. Frances and Dan Keller of Austin, Texas, were accused of forcing children to drink blood-laced Kool-Aid and watch the chainsaw dismemberment and graveyard burial of a passerby. The same children claimed they'd been flown to Mexico to be sexually assaulted by soldiers and then returned home in time for their parents to collect them, as if nothing had happened. The Kellers spent twenty-two years in prison.

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about these charges and prosecutions is the lack of physical evidence in support of them. It should've been everywhere: the blood, the scars, the DNA, the witnesses, the flight records, the tunnels, the robes, the corpses, the sharks, the dead baby tigers. Instead, police and prosecutors relied upon debunked and invented tests for winking anuses and microtraumas and the coerced and literally unbelievable testimony of children.

Success vs virtue. For me, the most important takeaway from the book is the reminder that our desire to be (and be seen as) virtuous can misfire in extremely destructive ways - and that there are warning signs you can look for that your community may be particularly vulnerable to this.

If the small original cadre of Satan-hunters had been motivated to solve the problem of ritual abuse, they'd have played a success game. In success games, status is awarded principally for displays of competence. They make for a culture of analysis, experimentation, practice, research, testing, revision, data and open debate. A success game approach to the riddance of secret sex-satanists could be expected to start with a useful assessment of the problem. This would've led to the realisation that it didn't exist. The consequence? Not much status for the Satan-hunters.

Instead, they played a virtue game. Virtue games often do weave a story around their striving that says they are motivated by the solving of some critical problem - frequently in the form of some evil, high-status enemy - but the truth is betrayed by their mode of play. Virtue games tend to be focussed mostly on the promotion of the game itself, with maintenance of conformity, correct beliefs and behaviours being of heightened importance. The hunters' core beliefs were often challenged by children in interviews and their virtue play is evident in their magicking of these denials into further evidence that their diseased perception of reality was correct. They were willing to 'believe the children', but only when the children confirmed their beliefs. The consequence? Status beyond their wildest dreams.

One of the formative experiences of my life was leaving my religion (slowly) in early adulthood. The form of Christianity I'd grown up in was extremely focused on belief. A person's eternal destiny supposedly depended entirely on whether they held the right beliefs, and a person's standing within the community was highly affected by which doctrines they expressed agreement with and which ones they denounced. Thus, feeling doubt about whether the religion was true would cause you to feel guilt and shame, along with fear that expressing that doubt would seriously damage your relationships. This dynamic (which, unforunately, is not restricted to religion) is traumatic for the doubter, but it's also dangerous to society. It incentivizes us to subconsciously avoid, ignore, or downplay any challenges to our beliefs. This leaves us overconfident, easily swayed to act on those beliefs in more drastic and risky (to ourselves or to the outgroup) ways than reason and evidence really justify.

Humiliation. Another takeaway for me is how dangerous it is to promote the humiliation of others. Storr uses serial killers Elliot Rodger, Ed Kemper, and Ted Kaczynski as extreme examples of people whose feelings of humiliation may have influenced them. (I hadn't heard the story of Kaczynski being subjected to years of perverse psychological experiments during college, which was pretty shocking.) He also says that "[a]cute or chronic social rejection has been found to be a major contributory factor in 87 per cent of all school shootings between 1995 and 2003".

Surveys hint at how gruesomely painful episodes of humiliation can be to ordinary people, and are suggestive of their ability to summon demons, with one finding 59 per cent of men and 45 per cent of women admitting to homicidal fantasies in revenge for them.

A definition he gives for humiliation is: "an absolute purging of status and the ability to claim it." And because we are "programmed to seek connection and status, humiliation insults both our deepest needs." It's unsurprising that, consigned to this emotionally unendurable state and powerless to fix it, some people will lash out in destructive ways.

I think it's fairly common to take pleasure in, or fantasize about, seeing our enemies humiliated. We gloat when social media users gang up to mock and ostracize someone we don't approve of. We laugh when comedians mock the weight or face or voice or genitals of a public figure we dislike (apparently as long as it's funny we don't care about the collateral damage to anyone else who happens to share those features - as also evidenced by our willingness to make everyone named "Karen" live in a society that treats their very name as a joke). Sometimes we practically compete with each other to prove who is most willing to dehumanize the perpetrator of some particular offense, such as when people laugh about the possibility of a criminal being raped in prison, or even imply that it's a good and just part of their punishment.

I want to be conscious of how tempting this impulse to embarrass and humiliate people is, and actively resist it. Not just because we're prone to taking it further than the target's behavior really justifies (though we are), but because it can unnecessarily provoke the target and their supporters to push back more vehemently - leading to increasingly bitter and intense conflict.

Profile Image for Bakunin.
202 reviews211 followers
October 16, 2022
"Human life is a set of hallucinatory games organised around symbols. These games are an act of shared imagination"

There is so much to this gem of a book. The authors main point is that humans have evolved to tell stories and through these stories we play games in which we are the hero. There are 3 types of status games we can play: dominance, virtue or success games. We are all playing some versions of each of these games throughout our lives. We play these games as if our lives depend on it because... they do:

"Workers at the bottom of the office hierarchy have, at ages forty to sixty-four, four times the risk of death the administrators at the top of the hierarcy. The lower you dropped, the worse health and the earlier your death" (p. 17)

A healthy brain is a brain which tells you the story of how morally superior you are to other people. This is why humiliation can really effect a persons mental health. Storr manages to explain the behavior of a few serial killers by linking their way of viewing the world to humiliating episodes in their early life. Humiliation can imply 'annihilation of the self' (in the worst case) and therefore "the only way to recover is to find a new game even if that means rebuilding an entire life and self" The word status has a bad connotation and therefore a better way to look at it is by saying that humans want feel valued and appreciated. When they are appreciated they rise in status.

So it isn't all negative. Those who play the success game are more likely to actually create value for others rather than compete in a game that is essentially zero-sum. It is possible to use these instincts for prosocial behavior. By questioning our own sense of moral superiority we can get a perspective on the game we are playing and also by being an individual. That is at least Storrs advice. I would add meditation to the list although it is true (as Storr points out) that meditation can also become a virtue game. Stoicism is another alternative.

4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Daksh Jindal.
122 reviews76 followers
January 6, 2023
This book has changed the way I see the world. It gave me a very unique perspective on the human psychology. The way the author builds up the narrative about the status games we all play and the way he concludes it in the last 3 chapters is remarkable.
It will teach you history, it will teach you how to think about things around in the world and it will leave you at peace with the last chapter encapsulating perfectly how to participate in this illusionary status game created by us humans. Amazing book.
Profile Image for Lily.
30 reviews
November 3, 2021
I didn’t expect to like this book as much when I first started this book.

The main ideas I got from this book:
It is in human nature to play status games.
The main point is not to win, but to play, as no one truly win in the status game.
There are a handful of main kinds of games: prestige, dominance, virtue, success.
People choose what games they play in, and has tendency to climb up the rank in their games.
If people feel that their rank in the game is jeopardized, it can create immense anxiety and distress.
If people feel their game itself is being attacked or validity jeopardized, people will fight hard to protect their game, and people within the game will create even stronger bonds amongst themselves.

Antidotes to being caught up in the games:
To avoid overly invested in one game, layer and play multiple games.
Understand and respect that people are all playing their own games.
Mindful that the games are all symbols and meanings that we conjure up in our heads. Put things in perspective.

Is this book vigorously scientifically researched? Probably not. It’s not that kind of a book.
Is this book saying anything new? I’d say this book is saying things in a different way. It does offer me an overarching theory that help explain many behaviors that’s been mind boggling to me. It gives me a new lens to see these behaviors. It helps me connect many dots. For all these, thanks for writing this book.
Profile Image for Ed Cunningham.
86 reviews266 followers
October 29, 2021
This hidden necessity is scarily missed by most of us. But status is one of the most important factors in life, we should educate ourselves on this, so we can each play the game in the least harmful way.
Profile Image for Aadil Hasan.
11 reviews
November 19, 2021
What we do, we do for status.
That's it, that's the whole book stretched for 415 pages.
Profile Image for Jessada Karnjana.
460 reviews5 followers
January 22, 2023
Status game (เกมชนชั้น) เป็นเกมที่ทุกคนเล่น เรามักจะมองหาว่าเราอยู่ตรงไหนในลำดับชั้น คนที่เราสัมพันธ์ด้วยอยู่ตรงไหน สูงกว่าหรือต่ำกว่า Will Storr หาข้อมูลค่อนข้างดีในการเรียบเรียงเรื่องนี้ การเล่มเกมอธิบายได้ด้วยพฤติกรรมหลายอย่างของคนในสังคม และพฤติกรรมหลายอย่างที่ดูเข้าใ��ยากของสังคมก็อธิบายได้ด้วยมุมมองว่าคนในสังคมกำลังเล่นเกม เกมที่เราเล่นก็จะกลับมาควบคุมและชักใยพฤติกรรมของเราอีกที จุดอ่อนข้อหนึ่งของหนังสือคือไม่มีอะไร surprise และไม่ลึก (ถ้ามองแบบ Shannon ก็เท่ากับ information content ไม่มากนัก) อ่านได้เรื่อย ๆ จุดที่ชอบที่สุด คงเป็น rule ข้อหนึ่งใน status game ที่ว่า Never Forget You're Dreaming นำไปสู่ประโยคสุดท้าย The meaning of life is not to win, it's to play.
7 reviews1 follower
September 2, 2022

Amazing book about the nature of human life and the game we all play - the status game. The author explains the social position in so many contexts and timeframes. The book provides the reader with a lot of new perspectives on a. range of issues concerning the status and human nature and human psychology. There are loads of references in the text to the source materials, a thorough explanation of the research and all the information is presented in a very simplified way.
This was such a great read concerning neuroscience and human neuropsychology concepts explaining how people behave and why. I especially enjoyed the last ten chapters which dealt with recent human history (such as chapters about IIWW, the USSR and the era of neoliberalism). These were not only explanatory but also provided some useful behavioural guidance in relation to the issues discussed in this fantastic book.

"But the truth of human life is that it's a set of hallucinatory games organised around symbols." (p. 32, Chapter 4)
Profile Image for Sean Goh.
1,460 reviews83 followers
February 21, 2023
A gem of a book that provided me with a new lens to view society and the world through. The need for recognition and status versus how it is not cool to be openly status-striving expresses itself in a myriad of ways in modern society. Written in a breezy manner that brings the reader on a journey through the history of status expressing itself, the book is packed full of content but doesn't become a drag to read, unlike some other recently read ones..

once again because the clippings are too long I've put the full thing on LJ: here

Excerpts that could fit below:
As a tribal species, our personal survival has always depended on our being accepted into a supportive community. Powerful emotions compel us to connect: the joy of belongingness and agony of rejection.

define three different forms of the status game – the dominance game, the virtue game and the success game – and ask how certain kinds of play can lead us into a fairer, wealthier tomorrow. Finally we’ll attend to some practical advice that seeks to assist us in playing our personal games of life.

The arguments in this book are predicated on the simple idea, now well-supported by researchers, that status is a fundamental human need.

To admit to being motivated by improving our rank risks making others think less of us, which loses us rank. Even admitting it to ourselves can make us feel reduced. So our awareness of our desire for status eats itself.

a 123 country study found people’s wellbeing ‘consistently depended on the degree to which people felt respected by others’.

We're rarely content to linger on the lower social rungs of our groups, likeable but useless. We desire worth, acclaim, to be of value. There’s an itch to move up. In the oft-quoted words of psychologist Professor Robert Hogan, humans are driven to ‘get along and get ahead’.

Workers ‘at the bottom of the office hierarchy have, at ages forty to sixty-four, four times the risk of death of the administrators at the top of the hierarchy’.

‘most people strongly believe they are just, virtuous, and moral, yet regard the average person as distinctly less so’. Moral superiority, they concluded, is a ‘uniquely strong and prevalent form of positive illusion’.

How do we tell how we’re doing in this game of life? We do it, in part, by assigning values to objects. A Cartier watch is worth this much status; a Casio watch is worth that. These ‘status symbols’ tell us, and our co-players, how we’re performing. We pay obsessive attention to them. We need to: unlike in a computer game, there’s no definitive scoreboard in human life. We can never see precisely where players sit versus us in the rankings. We can only sense it from symbols to which we’ve attached particular values.

Children are ‘sensitive to inequality’, writes the psychologist Professor Paul Bloom, ‘but it seems to upset them only when they themselves are the ones getting less’.

the ranked position of an individual’s income predicts general life satisfaction, whereas absolute income and reference income have no effect

Pohnpei yam growing contests: A single yam could take ten years to grow, reach over four metres in length, weigh over ninety kilograms and require as many as twelve men to carry into the feast using a special stretcher on poles.

our pursuit of symbolic status ‘has to do with the fact that human social life inherently depends on there being a public arena in which symbols can be made available to perception and shared by many people’. People who have connected ‘share in the perception of these symbols, and incorporate them into their own thinking, feeling, and identity’, which ‘means that they experience their consociates as “kin”’. It’s in this way that we exist as a tribe, a culture, a people.

seven common rules of play that are thought to be universal: help your family; help your group; return favours; be brave; defer to superiors; divide resources fairly; respect others’ property.

Some try to cure themselves of status-striving with meditation. But meditators can become notably pleased with themselves. A study of around 3,700 who’d practised specifically to ‘reduce attachment to the personal self and ego needs such as social approval and success’ found they scored highly in measures of ‘spiritual superiority

Dominance is how animals frequently play status games. When hens are brought into each other’s company they peck at each other until a pecking order is established.

Natural selection shaped our psychology to make us docile, ashamed at norm violations, and adept at acquiring and internalising social norms.’ As the ways we played for status changed, we slowly transmuted into the weird, strutting, mind-haunted, jewel-sparkling animals we’d recognise today.

Prestige is our most marvellous craving. It’s a bribe that induces us into being useful, benefitting the interests of the tribe. It’s enabled us to master the art of co-operative living.

In each status game we play, we have a reputation. In its details, that reputation will be different within the mind of every player.

four main cues that, once detected, trigger their focus. 1) we look for the self-similarity cue.

2) skill cues. Who, in our game, seems particularly able?

3)success cues – status symbols such as an experienced hunter’s necklace of teeth; a tribal chief’s larger hut; a PhD;

4)we look for ‘prestige cues’: we analyse the body language, eye movements and voice patterns of our co-players to see who they’re deferring to.

the more ambiguous the relation is with respect to who should be expected to outrank whom, the more likely violence is’.

humiliation is an absolute purging of status and the ability to claim it. They propose four preconditions for an episode to count as humiliating. Firstly, we should believe, as most of us do, that we’re deserving of status. Secondly, humiliating incidents are public. Thirdly, the person doing the degrading must themselves have some modicum of status. And finally, the stinger: the ‘rejection of the status to claim status’. Or, from our perspective, rejection from the status game entirely.

When humiliation annuls the status of individuals to claim status, they are in essence denied eligibility to recover the status they have lost. the humiliated loses their right to claim both status and connection, usually needing to find a new game to play.

These positive feelings from the group are key: in team tugs of war, when individual performance is hidden, people pull about half as hard as when working alone, but ramp up their efforts when a crowd cheers them on. The same is true of runners and cyclists who also perform better with an appreciative audience.

It’s actually our smaller games that matter: ‘studies show that respect and admiration within one’s local group, but not socioeconomic status, predicts subjective well-being’.

Social media is a slot machine for status. This is what makes it so obsessively compelling.

‘There was no point at which preference for higher status levelled off,’ she writes. The researchers thought one reason the desire for status is ‘never really satiated��� is because ‘it can never really be possessed by the individual once and for all. Since it is esteem given by others, it can always, at least theoretically, be taken away.’ So we keep wanting more. And more and more and more.

Status drunkenness is extraordinary and ordinary and testament to how the game can intoxicate human cognition.

found the most successful leaders are usually those with the ‘least compliant’ followers.

'I’ve been addicted to almost every substance known to man and the most addicting of them all is fame.’

‘egalitarian lifestyles of the hunter-gatherers exist because the individuals care a lot about status. Individuals in these societies end up roughly equal because everyone is struggling to ensure that nobody gets too much power over him or her.’

hierarchies of culture, economy and society, and the informal true game, that continued to occur in the minds of the players. This leads to a phenomenon that might be called the Prince Charles Paradox, in which one person can be simultaneously high and low in status. Prince Charles enjoys superlative amounts of formal status, being next in line to the British throne. But he’s also relatively low in true status, with only around half of his British subjects holding a positive opinion of him. These dynamics can generate wild storms of misery for players when their leaders – be they a paranoid royal or a horrible boss – become insecure about their level of true status and demand of them ever-greater demonstrations of loyalty, subservience and adoration.

Though I can’t prove it, I suspect our massively increased exposure to formal zero-sum play is responsible for much of the misery, anxiety and exhaustion we experience as twenty-first-century players.

The more they (supporters of losing clubs) convince each other, the more their dream thickens up and the more narcissistic they grow on behalf of their games. This is status play. It’s dishonest and it’s spiteful and it’s one of life’s great pleasures.

Whether they’re nations, religions or football supporters, status games are made out of people. In order to believe our games are superior, we must believe its players are also superior.

The ultimate purpose of all status games is control. They were designed by evolution to generate cooperation between humans; to force (in the case of dominance) or bribe (in the case of the prestige games of success and virtue) us to conform.

What creates revolutionary conditions isn’t the steepness of the inequality but the perception the game has stopped paying out as it should.

a predictable precursor to societal collapse to be ‘elite-overproduction’ – when too many elite players are produced and have to fight over too few high-status positions.

Three major forces conspire to push us in certain directions: genes, upbringing and peer group.

children who were treated as the delicate, precious equals of their elders could show less stability. ‘What seems lacking for some Parkside children is the sense of security, protection, respect and humility that can arise from knowing that one is not at the top of the hierarchy.

their self-esteem shifts from being based on how they feel in the moment to how they imagine their peers are evaluating them, they begin to crave their approval.

‘more often than not, citizens do not choose which party to support based on policy opinion; they alter their policy opinion according to which party they support. Usually they do not notice that this is happening, and most, in fact, feel outraged when the possibility is mentioned.’

Their superior intelligence simply makes them better at reaffirming their bent story of reality.

If we don’t endlessly debate these kinds of facts, it’s because we don’t have any of our status invested in them. But, when we do, our thinking can rapidly become deranged.

Moral ‘truths’ are acts of imagination. They’re ideas we play games with.

Virtue games tend to be focussed mostly on the promotion of the game itself, with maintenance of conformity, correct beliefs and behaviours being of heightened importance.

Events like these are often described as moral panics. Whilst this is surely correct in some cases, our investigation suggests an alternative possibility: that much of their explosive energy can derive not from panic, but desire for acclaim. They happen when games suddenly find ways of generating outsized volumes of status for their players.

it’s that we should be suspicious of any idea, such as ‘believe children’ or ‘vaccines are harmful’, that allows connection into a game. We should be yet more suspicious when status, in that game, is earned by active belief in it.

Sacred symbols can be seen as physical carriers of our status: when someone attacks them, they attack our game and our co-playing kin; they degrade all that we’ve earned and all that we value.

(on missionaries proselyting:) We’re all so many neural imperialists, fighting to expand our territory by making incursions into the minds of others.

reading about a threat from the Japanese showed ‘higher neural synchrony’ with each other. This tightening up – the thickening of the connections between them – helped them coordinate faster in group tasks. Tighter games work better together: the dominion of the individual recedes, that of the group swells, and it becomes better able to defend itself from attack.

In our tribal, kin-based games it was our tribal kin who’d decide collectively whether unwanted players lived or died. For the vast majority of our time on earth, then, humans haven’t been subject to the tyranny of leaders. Instead, we lived in fear of what anthropologists call the ‘tyranny of the cousins’. These ‘cousins’ weren’t necessarily actual cousins. They’d usually be clan elders that, in these shallow hierarchies, passed for the elite. Whilst they’re thought to have almost always been men, both genders could take part in the act of deadly consensus-making.

The problem is, there aren’t two separate and easily identifiable forms of player – tyrants and non-tyrants. We all contain the capacity for tyranny. Who’s the tyrant and who’s the victim can often be difficult to tell. The cousins themselves could be brutal.

Anthropologist Professor Richard Wrangham describes us as having lived in a ‘social cage of tradition’ in which players ‘lived or died by their willingness to conform’. The power of these cousins was ‘absolute. If you did not conform to their dictates, you were in danger.’

Those who play in their mobs are a minority of a minority. And yet too often their commanding voice on social media become a commanding voice in our democracies.

The accounts of players in tightened games are often those of victimhood that draw their foes as powerful, heartless and dangerous. When actual reality provides a paucity of such accounts, players can simply invent them.

The game becomes even tighter as players ‘pressure one another in order to cover up their own private doubts’. This makes suspicions increase yet further. The game can then enter what sociologists Dr Bradley Campbell and Dr Jason Manning call a ‘purity spiral’ in which players ‘strive to outdo one another in displays of zealotry, condemning and expelling members of their own movement for smaller and smaller deviations from its core virtues’.

This is what happens when life gets tight. The power of the tyrannical cousins is uncaged, their warriors fight, witches are burned and the game’s neural territory becomes a surreal and suffocating nightmare of dominance-virtue play. There are demands for conformity and purity; there is gossip, fear, paranoia and denunciation; there are calls for the relaxation of legal protections; there are double standards directed at the enemy and fantasy sins prosecuted by unjust means; there is despair, humiliation and misery; there are lives spoiled and sometimes finished. And then there are the winners: proud warriors all, giddily assured of their status as moral exemplars, beaming in victory from their place up above.

‘Groups that deal with many ecological and historical threats need to do everything they can to create order in the face of chaos,’ she writes. ‘The greater the threat, the tighter the community.’

Nations the world over become dangerous when humiliated. One study of ninety-four wars since 1648 found 67 per cent were motivated by matters of national standing or revenge, with the next greatest factor – security – coming in at a distant 18 per cent.

He believed what he was doing was important. This revolution he’d joined was a status goldrush: its rewards were immense. Of course it was fun. For willing players on the right side of the gun, tyranny always is.

Humiliated grandiosity can trigger murder on an enormous scale because perpetrators inhabit a heroic story that says they’re categorically superior to their victims – effectively a different species of being. The most potent weapon of mass destruction’ is ‘the humiliated mind’.

these changes (Catholic church's anti incest measures) ‘systematically broke down the clans and kindreds of Europe into monogamous nuclear families’. People were forced to seek status outside their kin networks and play with strangers.

Those acting with toil and self-discipline in a freely chosen game were allowing God’s gift to flourish. Playing for personal success became holy, an act of worship.

A sacred virtue was made of education: reading wasn’t merely encouraged, it was a foundational rule of the game, necessary for developing individual moral behaviour and building a personal relationship with God.

literacy rates grew ‘fastest in countries where Protestantism was most deeply established.

Many centuries earlier, the Christian elites had started rewiring its players to become more open and less in awe of their own groups. This gave Westerners an increased openness to novel ideas

This openness to novel ideas became a status-making pursuit. At first in Italy in the 1500s, and then across Western Europe, there spread a fashion for possessing ‘useful knowledge

The establishment of the Republic of letters takes two electrical wires, jams them together and makes an explosion that blasts us into a new epoch. The first live wire was our capacity for culture. The second was status from success.

Adam Smith didn’t believe greed for wealth was the ultimate driver of economies. He thought something else was going on, something deeper in the human psyche. ‘Humanity does not desire to be great, but to be beloved,’ he wrote in 1759. ‘The rich man glories in his riches because he feels they naturally draw upon him the attention of the world … and he is fonder of his wealth on this account than for all the other advantages it procures him.

An especially hazardous quality of social perfectionism is that it’s based on what we believe other people believe. It’s in that black gap between imagination and reality that the demons come.
10 reviews
May 15, 2022
I would give 2.5 stars. The overall message of the book is easy to understand. For a while I was wondering why there are so many chapters left that seemed to be just more examples, getting more and more intense, but not adding to the overall message. With more stories, the take aways somehow got lost on me. If you enjoy stories of the most evil of humans, this book is for you. I enjoyed the statistics but found them not sufficiently interpreted in the book, so the reader has to do that for themselves.
In the end, an abstract or summary of the matter would have been better time spent.
October 11, 2021
This is really mind blowing.

It gives a clear description and explanation to many facts and trends I’ve spotted in society for many years, but couldn’t really understand.

Fantastic read.
Profile Image for Vlad.
752 reviews33 followers
January 3, 2023
Stunningly good. Made me re-evaluate everything I thought to be true about modern society. Loved it.

Central premise: humans are driven to play a "game" called "status." The status game's about being better than others: “When people defer to us, offer respect, admiration or praise or allow us to influence them in some way, that’s status. It feels good.”

Life can be analyzed with this game framework: the popularity contest of high school, the contest to make partner at law firms, the "richest person in the world" game as measured by wealth accumulation, the "holier than thou" game played by religious adherents.
Profile Image for Mary Mimouna.
111 reviews11 followers
December 28, 2021
I really enjoyed this book and found it difficult to put down. I really enjoyed his detailed discussions of historical movements in cultures, and could see the same movements and ideas happening all over again in today’s culture. I could also see the behavior of many people I know in the individual behavior described in this book.

This book also helped me better understand what is behind the origin of bullying, and why it is so hard to eradicate.
Profile Image for Ha Tran Nguyen Phuong.
148 reviews7 followers
March 2, 2023
This book is a fascinating exploration of the status game that we all play, all the time. It touches on some of the darkest human histories but also explores the possibilities of new, better status games that we can engage in. It puts a framework on human behavior in a clear, scientific and convincing way. Through this lens I can better understand how to play the game better, but more importantly, which games I want to play.
Profile Image for Danesha Grant.
19 reviews1 follower
January 30, 2022
I would definitely recommend this book for anyone that enjoys learning about human nature and sociology. He really makes some fascinating points that you can literally see play out in real time, especially on social media. So fascinating.
Profile Image for Mikko Saarinen.
6 reviews2 followers
January 19, 2022
An extremely important and well-written book offering a believable explanation on why people often act as they do.
Profile Image for Ted Alling.
121 reviews2 followers
September 18, 2022
I feel like I learned some things I will carry with me for the rest of my life from this book.
Profile Image for Na Pai.
Author 2 books26 followers
July 26, 2022
Faig copiar i enganxar de les idees i notes que m'he anat apuntant del llibre:

Tots competim en un joc de suma zero per millorar el nostre estatus i ens comparem contínuament per saber en quina posició estem, aquest és el joc de l’estatus que tots juguem. Pot semblar una visió depressiva de la humanitat però també pot ser il·luminador i inspirador. És extraordinari que la nostra espècie hagi desenvolupat un sistema per recompensar-nos quan sóm virtuosos i el resultat és coratge i altruisme. Les qualitats que més valorem en la humanitat es fan realitat gràcies al joc de l'estatus.

Sí aconseguir estatus és una necessitat tan fonamental per nosaltres com és que ens genera tanta incomoditat acceptar-ho? Admetre que estem motivats a guanyar estatus significa arriscar-nos a que els altres ens vegin com egoistes la qual cosa ens faria perdre estàtus. Fins i tot admetre-ho a nosaltres mateixos ens fa sentir pitjor, per això la consciència del desig per l’estatus s’auto-elimina. Som molt capaços de reconèixe'l en els nostres rivals i fins i tot utilitzar-l’ho com a insult que irònicament és un joc per l'estatus, un intent de rebaixar l'estatus dels altres mentre fem créixer el nostre.

Un ampli ventall d'estudis han comprovat que la gent amb depressió tendeix a pertànyer a menys grups socials que la resta de la població. Com més s'identifica amb un grup una persona deprimida més s'esvaeixen els seus símptomes. El fracàs a connectar amb un grup social ens fa físicament malalts. Es pot predir la mortalitat valorant fins a quin punt algú té contactes significatius amb els altres, és a dir sòlides relacions cara a cara, independentment de com de saludable sigui la seva vida. Podem portar una dieta molt sana i fer molt d’exercici diàriament, però si ens sentim sols, la nostra salut es veurà igualment compromesa.

En un experiment en el qual es deia als participants que es tractava d'un tast de galetes de xocolata, se'ls hi demanava escollir altres participants amb qui fer el test i alguns se'ls hi deia que ningú els havia escollit i aquest grup menjaven una mitjana de 9 galetes més de xocolata. La gent rebutjada és més probable que siguin menys generosos i poden caure en conductes poc saludables. Com més ràpid i gran és el nostre descens d'estatus més possibilitats tenim de suïcidi.

El nostre cos i el nostre cervell necessiten estatus igual que oxigen. Quan el perdem, emmalaltim, entrem en estat crític d’estrès i ansietat el nostre sistema immune es deprimeix.

És impossible evitar el joc de l'estatus, està inscrit en el nostre cervell. Hi ha qui intenta curar-se de l'ànsia d'estatus a través de la meditació però tot i així, un estudi amb 3.700 individus què la practicaven específicament per reduir el lligam amb l'ego i les seves necessitats com ara l'acceptació social i l'èxit va concloure que treien una puntuació molt elevada en mesures com ara superioritat espiritual i estaven d'acord en sentències com ara “estic més en contacte amb els meus sentits que els altres” o “gràcies a les meves pràctiques estic més en contacte amb el meu cos que l'altra gent” o “el món seria un lloc millor si els altres tinguessin la consciència que tinc jo”.

Sols aquells que s'aïllen tot sols en una habitació escapen del joc. Troben que és massa difícil connectar amb els altres o aconseguir estatus, els genera massa ansietat el que els altres poden pensar d'ells. Molts es queden tancats durant anys, alguns moren sols. Aquesta és l'única decisió que ens queda: hikikomori o jugar.

Hi ha jocs de dominància on l'estatus s'aconsegueix a través de la força i la por tal i com fan les màfies o els exèrcits; jocs de virtut on l'estatus s'aconsegueix sent obedient o moralista tal i com fan les religions i tenim els jocs d'èxit on l'estatus s'aconsegueix a través de l'habilitat, el talent o el coneixement tal i com fan les empreses o els campionats esportius.

El nostre estatus és diferent en la ment de cada jugador, existim en diferents graus de coneixença i diferents graus d’honradesa segons el punt de vista de cada jugador.
Som morals i immorals, experts o inútils segons com ens veuen, com parlem, fem sentir-los estimats o odiats, desitjats o repudiats, admirats o vistos amb compassió. És aquest avatar distorsionat i parcial amb el que juguem a la vida no el nostre jo autèntic i sencer. Ningú ens coneixerà mai per complet i per això l'estatus és una qüestió de màrqueting.

Tenim un sistema de detecció de l'estatus que monitoritza fins a quin punt els altres ens defereixen en les més subtils negociacions de la conducta, el llenguatge corporal i el to.

La principal causa dels assassinats són els conflictes d'estatus, manques de respecte. El motiu de molts furts no és l'avarícia ni la necessitat, ho explica molt bé un autor de molts crims quan diu que “mai he aconseguit tant de respecte a la meva vida com quan apunto una pistola a la cara d'algú”.

La humiliació és descrita per investigadors com la bomba nuclear de les emocions. Produeix sentiments suïcides, psicosis, extrema ràbia i ansietat o característiques de estrès post-traumàtic. La humiliació és l'aniquilació del jo. Un investigador de la violència després de dècades d’investigació a presons buscant les causes de la violència va trobar que un rere l'altre els homes més violents li explicaven com van ser humiliats repetidament en les seves infàncies.
La vergonya és l’experiència privada de la humiliació al ser jutjats per una audiència imaginària en els nostres caps.

Proverbi africà que diu: “l'Infant que no és abraçat pel seu poble el cremarà per sentir el seu escalf”.

Una de les motivacions més fonamentals humanes és el desig d'eliminar el sentiment de vergonya i humiliació i reemplaçar-los pel seu oposat, el sentiment d'orgull.
El rebuig social és comú en el 87% dels autors de tiroteig escolars.

En els jocs i xarxes socials hi ha unes regles clares de què hem de fer: tenen un temps limitat i un objectiu clar i compartit. Tenen un rànquing ben definit al qual tothom hi té accés i pot veure la posició de cadascú. El joc que juguem a la realitat es ben diferent: la nostra posició canvia cada dia, no està fixada ni es publica enlloc, sinó que és "sentida" o experimentada. El nostre sistema de detecció d’estatus inconscient el llegeix a partir de claus en el món de símbols en el que estem immersos.
Malgrat tinguem un rang molt baix en el nostre entorn social, si un dia fem una gran aportació per la qual som felicitats, aquell dia ens sentirem com si fóssim les persones amb més estatus del nostre entorn.

Els jocs que juguem tenen un extraordinari poder sobre nostre. Quan canvien les regles també canviem nosaltres.

No importa quant estatus tenim, sempre en volem més. No existeix un punt en el que estiguem definitivament satisfets. L'ànsia d'estatus mai es saciada perquè no és possible aconseguir-lo per sempre més. Com que consisteix en amor i valoració donats pels altres, sempre poden deixar de ser donats, per això sempre en volem més i més.

No podem evitar recrear-nos en imaginar el reconeixement i l’estatus que ens proporcionarà l’activitat o projecte en què estem posats, tots patim vanitat. La principal diferència és que alguns la saben amagar i d’altres no tant.

Estudi de Michael Norton: pregunta a gent rica quan serà perfectament feliç i tots diuen quan tinguin el doble o tres vegades el que tenen ara però és una il·lusió: mai seran perfectament feliços i mai en tindran prou.
Les elits, tan per sobre nostre, mai trobaran el que busquen. No importa qui som ni lo amunt que arribem en l'escala d'estatus, la vida és un joc d'estatus que mai s'acaba.

En un experiment, quan les desigualtats no eren visibles els participants eren més cooperatius i al ser visibles eren menys amigables i els rics explotaven als pobres.

Quan veiem als nostres rivals en el joc de l’estatus, pensem que nosaltres som superiors, encara que estiguin per sobre nostre ens inventem històries i raons per sentir-nos afortunats d’estar en el grup que estem i així sentir-nos millor. Ens auto-enganyem per creure que sempre estem on toca (exceptuant quan estem deprimits).

Inevitablement, som jugadors del joc de l’estatus i fem trampes sempre que podem per beneficiar al nostre equip o a nosaltres mateixos. El nostre cervell ens amaga els càlculs i les trampes que fem per intentar guanyar al joc per fer-nos sentir que som més morals i ètics que la resta.

El que causa una revolució no es un major grau de desigualtat sinó la percepció de que el joc ha deixat de funcionar tal i com hauria de funcinoar o que el teu grup està perdent el seu lloc per raons que no són inevitables ni culpa vostra. També es habitual que un excés d’elit competint per escassos llocs de poder decideixin revoltar-se. Els pobles conquerits adopten les regles del joc dels conqueridors. Els pobles colonitzats lluiten per assolir el poder si cal fent una revolució d’independència, però ben sovint, tan bon punt l’han aconseguit reprodueixen les mateixes regles dels seus conqueridors.

L'autoestima dels nens quan es fan adolescents passa de basar-se en com es senten en cada moment a com s’imaginen que els avaluen els seus companys. Comencen a buscar la seva aprovació, a voltes amb poca perícia ja que es quelcom nou per ells. Són cada cop més conscients de que els altres els avaluen i és fàcil que sobreestimin fins a quin punt això és cert. Es quan comencem a jugar al joc de l'estatus i ens jutgem per la roba que portem, amb qui anem, quina pinta tenim... Si el teu amic és marginat, tu també.

Quan entrem a un nou joc d'estatus passem a admirar coses que abans no admiràvem i ens passen a fer vergonya coses que abans ens eren imperceptibles.

A mesura que creixem la nostra identitat es conforma d'acord amb les regles i els símbols del joc d'estatus al que juguem, la nostra conducta moral i la nostra percepció de la realitat depenen d'ell. Som la suma dels jocs als que juguem.

Cada joc d estatus funciona com una tribu a la qual estem orgullosos de pertànyer.

Estem programats per jugar i tenir èxit en el joc. Quan veiem jugadors guanyadors no únicament mimetitzem la seva conducta per tal de guanyar, també mimetitzem les seves creences. Com més hi creiem, més èxit tenim en el joc i per això es promou la creença enlloc de la veritat.

En el paleolític no importava que les llegendes i creences no fossin certes, lo important és que ens unien, ens oferien un sentit de la vida compartit, però en l’actualitat que formem part de diferents grups que se solapen la nostra tendència a creure'ns acríticament el que ens diu el líder d’algun dels jocs en els que juguem ens porta a errors, divisió i conflicte.

Quan entrem a un joc i adoptem la seva ideologia de cop i volta tot encaixa i té sentit, els dubtes i conflictes són cosa del passat, el passat gris i sense colors d'aquells sense consciència.

Quan es crea un nou joc que proporciona estatus és fàcil que gent nova s’hi vulgui apuntar per provar sort, com més gent s'hi apunta més estatus proporciona creant un feedback positiu que el fa créixer.

Quan ens trobem algú o un grup que juga a un altre joc amb unes regles i símbols que entren en conflicte amb el nostre joc implica què les nostre regles i símbols són invàlids i què la nostra percepció de la realitat és falsa o errònia. Neguen el valor de tot l'esforç que dediquem a aconseguir estatus en el nostre joc. La seva sola existència és un insult a nosaltres. Els seus valors i creences són una amenaça per l’estatus que tant d’esforç i dedicació ens ha costat guanyar en el nostre joc. Si la seva visió triomfés en el nostre entorn, eliminaria tot el nostre estatus. Intentem posar les ungles a les més petites escletxes dels seus més mínims errors i contradiccions per tal de fer-les més grans i així rebaixar el seu estatus al mateix temps que reforcem el nostre.
No únicament volem guanyar a nivell argumental amb els nostres rivals, també volem dominar-los ja sigui física o psicològicament.

Com més intensa és l'amenaça, l'atac o el conflicte, més gran és el lligam social. En un anàlisis dels lligams entre veterans de la segona guerra mundial es va trobar que els individus que van experimentar combats van mantenir connexions personals més fortes fins i tot 40 anys més tard.

Un estudi va trobar que la gent més disposada a difondre conspiranoies, fake news i rumors polítics hostils és gent obsessionada amb l’estàtus i socialment marginada. Gent amb poc estatus ressentida o envejosa d’aquella que en té molt.

En temps difícils el joc pot entrar en mode crític: els jugadors condemnen i fan fora membres del propi moviment per desviacions del joc cada cop més minúscules. Amb l'ànim de demostrar l'acceptació del propi joc, aconsegueixen estatus per ser els més grans defensors i promotors del propi joc denunciant i atacant aquells que incompleixin la més mínima norma del joc.

Les nacions que han sofert malalties, fam, desastres naturals o conflictes tenen cultures més restrictives amb normes socials més estrictes i amb menys tolerància per la desviació de les seves normes. Les societats que han patit amenaces, inestabilitat i inseguretats han necessitat imposar un ordre amb més força per confrontar el caos.
En les cultures més estrictes la gent vesteix de forma més similar tenen més autocontrol, hi ha menys crim i obesitat, són més puntuals tant ells com el transport públic, tenen més respecte per l'autoritat i la jerarquia. S’hi guanya estatus a través d'una conducta moral correcte, prefereixen líders dominants.

Les sectes són els jocs més estrictes de tots, mantenen el seu poder sent la única font significativa de connexió i estatus per als seus jugadors. Els seus membres acostumen a ser fracassats en els jocs de la vida convencional. Alienats, desorientats i ferits, els seus cervells busquen un joc que els hi ofereixi certeses, connexió i estatus que poden ser guanyats seguint unes regles ben clares i precises.

Els membres de sectes que acaben suïcidant-se no els hi han rentat el cervell, els seus cervells fan allò què fan de forma natural. Tots busquem regles i símbols amb els quals jugar a un joc d'estatus, quan en trobem un que ens encaixa i ens fa sentir bé som vulnerables a absorbir la seva història, no importa com en sigui de boja.

L'ascens del nazisme és molt condicionat per la gran humiliació que va rebre Alemanya amb els dràstics càstigs per part dels vencedors de la primera guerra mundial.

Sempre repetim la mateixa història: som uns jugadors virtuosos, ens mereixem més i aquells que s'interposen en el nostre camí són el mal. La història és seductora, és allò que els jugadors volem creure i la fem sagrada: tothom l’ha de creure en cada petit detall.

L'arma de destrucció massiva més potent és la ment humiliada. El principal motiu de conflictes armats és la humiliació.

L'església catòlica i protestant amb el seu afany de generar ingressos va erosionar la cultura basada en l'entrega total al clan i la família prohibint l'aparellament entre cosins i parents propers, casar-se després de vidu o l'adopció, sumat al fet de que només els fills barons tenen dret a heretar (un 20% de cada generació d'un llinatge no té fills o només té fills d'un sol sexe) tot això implica que molts llinatges s'extingeixen a cada generació de forma que l'església és qui hereta i recapta el patrimoni de totes les persones que no tenen fills barons. Això va reduir les famílies i promoure la mobilitat, molta gent havia d emigrar per anar a treballar per ajudar a famílies que no tenien prou fills, afavorint la neo-residència i la desintegració del clan familiar. I així va promoure l'individualisme i els jocs d'estatus basats en l’èxit en lloc de la virtut o el domini, la qual cosa explica l'extraordinari progrés tecnològic i econòmic d'occident.

La història no està escrita per individus sinó per individus connectats a grups. Aquests grups són jocs d'estatus i si realment volem ajudar als altres i fer del món un lloc millor no ens queda més remei que jugar a jocs d'estàtus.

A occident ens centrem a jugar a jocs d'estatus basats en l’èxit, exhibim els nostres assoliments a través de l’aparença, les possessions i estils de vida, estem obsessionats amb el nostre jo perquè és el joc que hem après a jugar des de ben petits, ens hem criat amb ell.

Vivim en entorns cada cop més competitius i amb expectatives menys realistes. La gent jove percep que el seu context social és cada cop més demandant, els altres ens avaluen amb més duresa i es veuen inclinats a exhibir perfecció per assegurar-se la validació. Entre 1989 i 2016 el perfeccionisme social s'ha incrementat en un 32% segons l'estudi de Thomas Curran.
És habitual sentir que estem fallant malgrat tinguem capacitat de proveir menjar, refugi i seguretat a les nostres famílies de forma sobrada. Viure en el món neoliberal és patir alguna forma d'ansietat vinculada amb l'estatus.

El privilegi és una nació explosiva, la idea de que algú té un estatus immerescut ens pot portar al ressentiment vers qui el gaudeix i desitjar rebaixar-lo, humiliar-lo, aïllar-lo o fins i tot eliminar-lo, tal i com va passar en l'Holocaust, amb els nazis considerant que l'elevat estatus dels jueus era immerescut.
Aquells que estan per sobre nostre pot ser que s'ho hagin guanyat amb suor i esforç, però som molt vulnerables a creure relats que diuen que han fet trampa.
Cada cop que algú utilitza alguna categoria per malparlar-ne i així rebaixar el seu estatus, està venent un conte simplista; la realitat sempre és molt més complexa.

L'estatus és complex, dinàmic i únic a qui som i a quins jocs estem intentant jugar. Depèn de si som intel·ligents, atractius amb salut mental, amb talent, capacitats, homes en un joc dominat pels homes o dones en un joc dominat per les dones, joves educats a l'escola privada, educats a la universitat, amb l’accent correcte, vivint en la zona més connectada, tenint una bona relació amb els pares...

Tal i com demostren les sectes o les societats en les que s’imposen ideologies extremes, som vulnerables d'arribar a creure'ns gairebé qualsevol il·lusió de la realitat sí el nostre estatus en depèn.
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224 reviews14 followers
November 4, 2022
The book offers both synopses of many discouraging studies and many anecdotal examples of humankind's apparently insatiable quest for status, as if it were the most vital motivation driving our behaviors. And perhaps it is. I understand that discussions of altruism, modesty, compassion, and love don't fit the thesis of the book; however, the book was somewhat exhausting if not thought-provoking and worthwhile reading.
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