Status

When Viv and I were training facilitators earlier this year, some of the liveliest sessions were the ones on status. We used a series of improv games to explore how they dynamics of conversations are powerfully affected by unconscious shifts in status.

And I rather share David Weinberger‘s view on good conversations: the bests ones for me occur between equals. Or to flesh that out the really good ones seems to escape from the status plays and defensiveness that often get in the way, and allow me to share an exploration with my partner.

So this little piece of research – admittedly with a tiny sample – caught my eye: it suggests social status affects how hard our brains work.

In line with similar research on monkeys, humans showed an increase in brain activity while viewing individuals they perceived to be of similar status. This means the brains of people with a high socioeconomic status showed more activity when looking at a picture of an individual they thought also shared high status. The same goes for people with lower perceived socioeconomic status when they viewed others similar to them.

It also reminded me of Matthew May‘s brilliant experiment to show a company how unconscious status games were making teams less intelligent.

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