It’s Respect, Not Money that Makes People Happier

By Rebecca Lewis on June 22, 2012

In four experiments, a group of researchers from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley studied the relationship between various types of status and wellbeing. Their findings show that it isn’t really how much money people have in their bank accounts but the respect they get from others that give them a sense of fulfilment and happiness.

The head researchers, psychological scientist Cameron Anderson said that they got interested in this idea because there’s abundant evidence that higher income, wealth, and education do not boost wellbeing although theories suggest that they should. Their theory was that sociometric status which refers to respect and admiration from social network, neighbourhood, workplace, and athletic team might influence one’s overall sense of wellbeing or happiness. When you have high standing in your local ladder, you gain more respect and become more influential, Anderson pointed out.

To test whether their theory was right, the researchers carried out a series of experiments.

Sociometric Status vs. Socioeconomic Status

In the first test, Anderson and his team surveyed 80 college students who participated in 12 various school organisations such as ROTC and sororities. The researchers measured the participants’ sociometric status by assessing their relationship with friends and the number of leadership positions they handled within the groups they belong. Their household income was also taken into consideration as well as their social wellbeing. After analysing all the gathered data, the researchers found that it is the sociometric status and not the socioeconomic status that predicted the students’ level of happiness.

They conducted a similar experiment but this time, involving a larger and more diverse group of participants. According to the researchers, the link between respect and sense of wellbeing could be explained, at least in part, by the social acceptance and influence or sense of power that the students felt within their groups.

In the third study, Anderson and his colleagues showed that the relationship between happiness and respect can be carried out in an experimental setting.

In the final study, they followed students who were taking MBA program until the time they graduated. Their findings reveal that changes in sociometric status affected the participants’ social wellbeing. They also found that the sociometric status of the participants after graduating from MBA became stronger. Anderson was surprised to discover that when the participant’s sociometric status goes up or down, so does their sense of happiness.

But why is it that socioeconomic status doesn’t greatly affect one’s sense of wellbeing even if it should? One possible explanation that the researchers hope to explore in future studies is that people easily adapt to their level of wealth. For instance, people who win the lottery get instantly happy but after a short period of time, their sense of wellbeing goes back to the original level. On the other hand, respect and influence goes on, for a much, much longer period of time.

Their findings were published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

 

Source of this article:

Respect Matters More Than Money for Happiness in Life,Association for Psychological Science

 

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