Positive team coffee break In an age where it appears that many people are vying for self-esteem especially through social media, this research is interesting. Particularly in business contexts where cooperation is king.

Research has previously shown that appearing to be wealthy increases others’ perceptions of intelligence and competence – yep that is right. So, we may assume that increasing the perception of wealth – or socio-economic status as the researchers like to call it – may benefit you in many ways particularly in the business world.

However, this research lead by Shalena Srna, PhD of Michigan’s Ross School of Business conducted a series of experiments (six in total) exploring people’s attitudes to shows of wealth in social media posts. In the first, carefully constructed posts with the same content but with differing content on status symbols of wealth were added. Those with higher status symbols were less likely to be selected to be a part of a cooperative group. They were also considered more self-interested and selfish – obviously not good for a cooperative group.

In another experiment participants were asked to dress for a social profile post and were given a selection of clothing including expensive brands – those that were told they were trying to be selected to be part of a cooperative group intuitively chose not to wear the expensive brand clothing. This suggests that we are instinctively attuned to this aspect of status and cooperation.

So, the key take way is that we are finely attuned to status and with this comes a set of assumptions, in certain circumstances this may be positive but in other it may be negative. When it comes to cooperative teams – essential in business, it may be best to appear, and be, more modest


Shalena Srna, Alixandra Barasch, Deborah A. Small. 
On the value of modesty: How signals of status undermine cooperation.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2022
DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000303

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