Nobody cares about status

Thu, Dec 13, 2007

Simplicity Rules

This bonus post is part of a series about The Paradox of Choice, a book about why more is less. Leave a comment below and I may randomly pick you to win one of three autographed copies. Read more of this series.

There was so much to say about The Hot Chick, I missed the chance to show how nobody cares about status, as long as the other guy is doing worse than them.

People were asked to choose between earning $50,000 a year with others earning $25,000 and earning $100,000 a year with others earning $200,000. They were asked to choose between 12 years of education (high school) when others have 8, and 16 years of education (college) when others have 20. They were asked to choose between an IQ of 110 when the IQ of others is 90 and an IQ of 130 when the IQ of others is 150. In most cases, more than half of the respondents chose the options that gave them better relative position. Better to be a big fish, earning $50,000, in a small pond than a small fish, earning $100,000, in a big one.

Again, all that has changed is a simple frame of reference. A New Yorker cartoon of an employee talking to his boss, republished in the book, makes the point succinctly: “O.K., if you can’t see your way to giving me a pay raise, how about giving Parkerson a pay cut?”

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