It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“Anderson and his colleagues hypothesized that higher sociometric status — respect and admiration in your face-to-face groups, such as your friendship network, your neighborhood, or your athletic team — might make a difference in your overall happiness. ‘Having high standing in your local ladder leads to receiving more respect, having more influence, and being more integrated into the group’s social fabric,’ Anderson said.” (“Respect Matters More Than Money for Happiness in Life”; ScienceDaily.com 6/20/2012)
To be clear, this isn’t just saying that having friends, neighbors or teammates will improve your happiness. (Because, I mean, duh.) It’s saying that having high status within those groups will make you happy.
The gist of the study is this, according to author Cameron Anderson: “There is abundant evidence that higher socioeconomic status — higher income or wealth, higher education — does not boost subjective well-being (or happiness) much at all. Yet at the same time, many theories suggest that higher status should boost happiness.” And so researchers have figured out that it’s the status related to commanding respect, rather than just being loaded, that gives a mood boost.
Part of me thinks this is lovely — being the president of the garden club is as happy-making as being a rich CEO!–but another part thinks it’s sad that so much of our happiness is tied into having power. And even in short time frames. The research says that even if you go up and down the “local ladder” over only nine months, your happiness will shift accordingly.
Mostly, though, I like the phrase “sociometric status.” I’d never heard it before, but basically it means (according to Wikipedia) “the degree to which someone is liked or disliked by their peers as a group.” So as opposed to channeling a fourth-grader, declaring that “nobody likes that girl,” you can just sound all academic and explain that your lifelong frenemy has low sociametric status. So much more civilized.
I am the president of exactly nothing. I am relatively liked, I think (I hope?), but I don’t have especially high status in any areas. (Other than my original NYC book club, of which I am considered the godfather, which I appreciate. That actually does make me happy). And still, I’m in a pretty good place. So here’s the question: Have you noticed your happiness levels change as your sociometric status changes? Or, to put it in people terms, are you happier when you feel generally loved?