The Science of Happiness and Social Status

In this week’s Brain Boost: the science of happiness and social status.

If you look on Instagram and many of the other social networks around, you’ll see that there’s a culture of people who like to flash money, designer bags, trips, and fancy cars. It would almost make you think that personal consumption and status should be the driving force behind our decisions.

If you find flashy images interesting and attractive, don’t worry it’s natural to your brain. Professor Ed Schiappa, the head of MIT Media Lab, has shown that our brains are virtually incapable of categorizing images and videos into a category that’s different from the things that we’ve actually seen in real life.

So, the takeaway here is that, when you see it through social media, your brain thinks that you actually saw it for real. That’s why we have a hard time remembering that some person who posts Instagram photos of themselves with luxury cars and helicopters that they really don’t own really isn’t that rich.

Interestingly, we now know for a fact that being super rich does not lead to happiness. Research from Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman at Princeton University has shown that, after around $75k a year, additional income contributes very little to our happiness. Instead, what we’re looking for is respect.

Check out his research here.

A research team from UC Berkeley shows that the kind of status that does drive real happiness is the kind that is derived from your personal networks: respect. And that respect is usually delivered in face-to-face interactions within your professional community or within your local community –not online.

So, the takeaway here is that being rich orbecoming rich… if that’s a part of your life, that’s great. You should do it well like Bill Gates, JK Rowling, and Warren Buffett. But let’s call bullshit on all the fraudsters who post Ferraris and claim that they can teach you to get what they have because, most likely, they don’t have it yet.

See you next week at 10 a.m. Pacific Time for another Brain Boost.

Also, check out these other videos from Daniel Kahneman and Ed Schiappa below:

Davis Jones

Davis Jones

Co-Owner & Head of Product at Eazl
Davis Jones is a communicator and content creator with 10 years of experience in content marketing and product management. He specializes in video course curriculum and pedagogy and is located in Chicago.
Davis Jones