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See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 23, Issue 1

High Status Breeds Feelings of Trust

Feeling prestigious makes people more trusting



Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

High status confers a rosy worldview, according to research available online last August in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Psychologists asked college students to write essays about having more prestige than others or being low on the totem pole, thus priming them to think of themselves as having either high or low status. Then the students were told they could send $10 to an unseen partner; the money would be tripled, and the phantom partner would return as much as he wanted. Forty percent of the high-status group sent the $10 versus 12 percent of the low-status group.

The researchers suggest that when a person feels their position garners admiration and respect, they expect to be treated well and so are more willing to trust others. So if you are feeling like you are on the bottom rung—starting a job or interacting with a new group of people, for instance—it may help to remember that those around you are most likely full of trust and positive expectations.

This article was published in print as "Life at the Top."

This article was originally published with the title "Life at the Top."

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