What if "status" IS a terminal value for most people?

post by handoflixue · 2012-12-24T20:31:21.883Z · score: 18 (33 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 112 comments

[Inspired by a few of the science bits in HP:MOR, and far more so by the discussions between Draco and Harry about "social skills". Shared because I suspect it's an insight some people would benefit from.]

One of the more prominent theories on the evolution of human intelligence suggests that humans involved intelligence, not to deal with their environment, but rather to deal with each other. A small intellectual edge would foster competition, and it would result in the sort of recursive, escalating loop that's required to explain why we're so SUBSTANTIALLY smarter than every other species on the planet.

If you accept that premise, it's obvious that intelligence should, naturally, come with a desire to compete against other humans. It should be equally obvious from looking at human history that, indeed, we seem to do exactly that.

Posit, then, that, linked to intelligence, there's a trait for politics - using intelligence to compete against other humans, to try and establish dominance via cunning instead of brawn.

And, like everything that the Blind Idiot God Evolution has created, imagine that there are humans who LACK this trait for politics, but still have intelligence.

Think about the humans who, instead of looking inwards at humanity for competition, instead turn outwards to the vast uncaring universe of physics and chemistry. Other humans are an obtainable target - a little evolutionary push, and your tribe can outsmart any other tribe. The universe is not nearly so easily cowed, though. The universe is, often, undefeatable, or at least, we have not come close to mastering it. Six thousand years and people still die to storms and drought and famine. Six thousand years, and we have just touched on the moon, just begun to even SEE other planets that might contain life like ours.

I never understood other people before, because I'm missing that trait.

And I finally, finally, understand that this trait even exists, and what it must BE like, to have the trait.

We are genetic, chemical beings. I believe this with every ounce of myself. There isn't a soul that defies physics, there is not a consciousness that defies neurology. The world, even ourselves, can be measured. Anger comes from a part of this mixture, as does happiness and love. They are not lesser for this. They are not!

This is not an interlude. It is woven in to the meaning of what I realized. If you have this trait, then part of your values, as fundamental to yourself as eating and breathing and drinking, is the desire for status, to assert a certain form of dominance. Intelligence can almost be measured by status and cunning, and those who try to cheat and use crass physical violence are indeed generally condemned for it.

I don't have this trait. I don't value status in and of itself. It's useful, because it lets me do other things. It opens doors. So I invest in still having status, but status is not a goal; Status is to me, as a fork is to hunger - merely a means to an end.

So I have never, not once in my life, been able to comprehend the simple truth: 90% of the people I meet, quite possibly more, value status, as an intrinsic thing. Indeed, they are meant to use their intelligence as a tool to obtain this status. It is how we rose to where we are in the world.

I don't know what to make of this. It means everything I'd pieced together about people is utterly, utterly wrong, because it assumed that they all valued truth, and understanding - the pursuits of intelligence when you don't have the political trait.

I am, for a moment, deeply, deeply lost.

But, I notice, I am no longer confused.

112 comments

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comment by pleeppleep · 2012-12-25T00:15:56.659Z · score: 21 (21 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know what to make of this. It means everything I'd pieced together about people is utterly, utterly wrong, because it assumed that they all valued truth, and understanding - the pursuits of intelligence when you don't have the political trait.

"Truth" and "understanding" seem to work as applause lights in this sentence. "Status" is used to the opposite effect throughout the post.

I think you're premise is a little confused. It sounds like you previously viewed status-seeking as the emotional equivalent of immoral, but now you don't because you realize it has adaptational advantages. I find it strange that you feel evolutionary causation is adequate to justify something, but I guess I won't question that.

More to the point, I think you're misjudging status. Status isn't as simple Machiavellian plays for power. It's generally assumed that only sociopaths play for dominance in and of itself. The term "status" feels kinda dirty when you analyze human interaction from afar. There's always the subtext that if you play for it, you're a bad person. That's not the way it feels when you're actually talking to other people.

Seeking status can feel like trying to live up to the expectations of people you care about. It can feel like trying to stand on equal ground with your friends. It can feel like trying be comfortable talking to that girl at the grocery store.

When people look at status seeking under a microscope, they usually try to screen off the humanity of its experience and so it comes off as something a super villain would do. When you actually feel it, it feels right. It feels very human. If you interact with other people at all, I can almost (not quite) guarantee that you seek status, you just don't call it status.

comment by shokwave · 2012-12-25T10:04:46.759Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I find it strange that you feel evolutionary causation is adequate to justify something, but I guess I won't question that.

Not justify: instead, explain. I understood that previously, handoflixue felt that status was dirty, but in understanding it has come to feel that it's just part of human nature (for most people, as the post points out).

comment by Academian · 2013-01-12T20:07:55.604Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not justify: instead, explain.

I disagree. Justification is the act of explaining something in a way that makes it seem less dirty.

comment by shokwave · 2013-01-13T05:12:04.049Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure I agree; people are often asked to justify their decisions - to argue their choice was better than another, and calling those arguments an explanation feels like we're stretching the definition of 'explain'.

comment by duckduckMOO · 2012-12-29T17:23:29.499Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"That's not the way it feels" "it feels right"

This is a horrible justification for anything. Doing something bad doesn't automatically make someone feel bad. It's an especially bad test of status-seeking's moral status because (normal) people rarely feel bad about doing something they perceive as normal even if it's bad. In any case it's not true that it always feels right, There are constitutional differences from person to person that change how normal everyday status seeking feels: not everyone seeks status for the warm fuzzies, some people seek it because it makes them feel powerful, or important, or to ease their insecurity, or because they think its useful in general, or in a specific case, or because it's normal and they do normal stuff (perhaps out of habit or an alief that normal=good, some do it to fit in, or because of explicit political calculation or etc etc obviously there are many different possible feelings I can't think of on the spot.) There are also some means of status seeking that should make most people feel pretty bad, E.g. picking on someone to avoid being picked on yourself, lying to make yourself look good, lying to transfer blame and punishment to someone else etc.

"The term "status" feels kinda dirty when you analyze human interaction from afar.There's always the subtext that if you play for it, you're a bad person."

No there isn't. Where would the subtext be coming from exactly? This stuff isn't all written by status haters (I wonder if any significant proportion is) What there is is explicit discussion of stuff that is usually left implicit. Sometimes if someone feels or thinks that it's bad that's going to leak through in what they write but this is hardly standard or ever present. If it feels dirty, maybe they mean something else by status than you do, or maybe that's just how you feel about it when looking from afar (or lots of other possible explanations). There's no subtext to blame it feeling dirty on.

"It can feel like trying be comfortable talking to that girl at the grocery store." Insofar as the word status is usefully different from "confidence" it is external. Feeling comfortable talking to someone does not get you status. Appearing to feel comfortable doing so might. The fact that being uncomfortable is uncomfortable* should really be the default explanation for someone trying to stop being uncomfortable. If I feel uncomfortable my default reaction is to try to stop feeling uncomfortable, if the discomfort isn't more instrumentally useful than annoying , and I'm not too busy. I'm pretty sure that's not status seeking.

"If you interact with other people at all, I can almost (not quite) guarantee that you seek status, you just don't call it status." The OP specifically stated that she did seek status, but that it wasn't a terminal value.

Also why is human being used as a compliment. It seems like you're arguing against the idea that this obviously very "human" thing (status seeking) is a bad thing. Using the word human as a compliment kind of presupposes your conclusion.

*and being uncomfortable is bad, and badness is bad, etc, etc.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-24T21:28:21.761Z · score: 19 (25 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have this trait. I don't value status in and of itself. It's useful, because it lets me do other things. It opens doors. So I invest in still having status, but status is not a goal; Status is to me, as a fork is to hunger - merely a means to an end.

Are you certain of this? Don't get me wrong it seems possible. But that paragraph will be seen by many people as a grab for status in the LessWrong community.

comment by shminux · 2012-12-24T21:33:45.868Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Which statement in this context would one consider as evidence for not valuing status?

comment by wedrifid · 2012-12-24T22:42:28.122Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Which statement in this context would one consider as evidence for not valuing status?

This statement is evidence for not valuing status. Curiously, given the way evidence works, this is entirely compatible with Konkvistador's claim and also with the interpretation he suggests many will have.

As an example consider p(has this trait) raising from 0.001 to 0.01. It would still be most likely that this was a status move but there has been an update in favor of "has this trait".

comment by shokwave · 2012-12-25T10:06:46.093Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Upvote for "I did the math and your claim was correct".

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-24T21:47:28.265Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Terminal vs. Instrumental valuing something is a tricky distinction to make in humans! I have to shrug and say I don't know.

Not seeming to care about status on the other hand is quite easy to detect. The argument wouldn't have shown much optimization for making the author look high status. For example an opportunity to talk about positive traits the author has may be passed up.

Also note I wasn't claiming the paragraph was evidence, just that it would be seen as a status grab. It is after all status raising if taken as an accurate description of a person in our community.

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-25T00:23:04.371Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I had genuinely not considered that it would ACTUALLY raise my status to make that claim. This was originally written for a more mainstream audience, where that claim would (I presume) be low status. A friend of mine even commented in a bit of shock that this wasn't an obvious fact of the world to me.

I find it amusing that my accidental status grab has been subverted by you, and turned in to a potential loss of status :)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-25T10:41:34.326Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes Humans are funny. :)

comment by FiftyTwo · 2012-12-25T01:19:34.509Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A confession of socially inappropriate/immoral behaviour.

comment by John_Maxwell_IV · 2012-12-28T09:08:18.346Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sharing something highly personal and embarassing?

comment by shminux · 2012-12-28T18:04:29.993Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Might also be considered an attempt to signal status with "Look how brave I am!". After all, that's what many think Eliezer's OkCupid profile is.

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-25T00:18:14.217Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Alternate hypothesii:

1) I'm lying and this is a grab for status.

In this case, well, I'd expect a totally different internal state. If this is true, I might as well concede that I'm simply incapable of rationality when it comes to understanding myself and my own motives. Obviously you have a different perspective, so I'd mostly have to point at my comment history. If I value status, I'm certainly going for more of an "underdog" status as I routinely post anti-cryogenics and not-infrequently get nailed down to -1 or -2 for being brash, sarcastic, and generally abrasive :)

I'm not sure why I'd want to build up this sort of "underdog" status instead of writing a truly high-status post, except that it requires very little work, but then if I'm not putting work in to it, I can't value it that much can I?


2) I simply have a lower valuation of status, but it's still there. 3) I have a normal valuation of status, but other priorities override it.

These seem observationally indistinguishable, unless a loss of status is clearly painful to me, so I'm grouping them together.

Frankly, I have no clue how I'd easily distinguish this, nor prove it externally. Status IS instrumentally useful, so I'm not going to go out and sink my status just to prove a point (although I claim to have done that when status WASN'T instrumentally useful to me, and when I was young enough not to really grasp instrumental values, but you can't really confirm that...)


Alternate #1 I'd rate as < 1%. Alternate #2/3, combined, I'd rate ~20%, based on internal evidence.

So ~80% confident?

comment by jimrandomh · 2012-12-25T00:55:48.682Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

4) I value status similarly to most people, but believe otherwise because this value is implemented by areas of my mind that are opaque to me

5) I value status similarly to most people, but have acquired the alief that truth and understanding are high status and this has crowded out most of the behaviors that would normally be associated with status-optimizing.

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-25T02:08:19.549Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

4) Less than 1%; While internal evaluation is important, I primarily measure based on empirical behavior - I go without shaving my legs, I don't mind wearing stained clothing, I'll happily sit on wet grass... 2 or 3 seems just flat-out more plausible to me. This also fails to explain why I'm both low-status AND seem to be entirely content with that.

5) Less than 1%; I consciously believe that truth and understanding are LOW status, and I'd be rather baffled to be mistaken about that self evaluation.

Thank you though, I had not considered either :)

comment by Jabberslythe · 2012-12-25T02:44:53.218Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do you think you would be writing using with capitalizations and conventional, non-phonetic, spelling if you were not concerned about status?

Is there a group, any group, of people whose respect and approval you do appreciate? Truth and understanding are high status here...

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-25T10:44:53.479Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do you think you would be writing using with capitalizations and conventional, non-phonetic, spelling if you were not concerned about status?

Be careful. Lost purposes like following an arbitrary rule set because it is the one you where taught first would happen even to status blind people.

comment by prase · 2012-12-25T23:52:09.644Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

izit relli eezier too rite like thiz than to follow the standard? Following the rules facilitates communication, their violation is disctracting. Not caring about status doesn't entail not caring about people repeatedly complaining about one's spelling instead of replying to the topic.

comment by Jabberslythe · 2012-12-26T00:03:35.236Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If I was going to do that, status considerations would hit before communication concerns would. And I wanted to see if I could elicit that same response.

EDITED

comment by RichardKennaway · 2012-12-26T01:24:30.068Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And I wanted to see if I could illicit that same response.

If you could WHAT?

comment by prase · 2012-12-26T00:22:46.404Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If I was going to do that, status considerations would hit before communication concerns would

That depends on situation and is besides the point anyway - even if there were no status considerations (think of a lolcat forum or something), I wouldn't do that (because it isn't easier). Would you?

comment by Jabberslythe · 2012-12-26T01:28:27.988Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I notice strong fears of being judged (and other emotions that I have determined to be from status concern) surrounding the correct use of grammar and such, so I thought there was a chance that other people would share it. That seems like a point.

I was also thinking that if I were actually not concerned about status I probably would have stopped capitalizing things at all and I would have considered making other changes. That probably isn't true, though, because the instrumental value of grammar is still really high if it's a status concern for other people.

I would.

comment by Nighzmarquls · 2013-01-06T06:22:22.974Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I refused to use anything but capital letters in my hand writing until I took calculus because I saw no functional difference between A and a as far as writing was concerned and A was easier to write.

In hind sight that seems like it would be evidence of low status valueing.

comment by BerryPick6 · 2012-12-26T00:00:27.136Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

no but it is easier to type like this, no?

I agree with your point about ease of communication, though.

comment by prase · 2012-12-26T00:15:37.487Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I never write/type without capitalisation even in private communication where the interlocutor does and thus my disorthography would cost me nothing in terms of status. Pressing shift once in a while isn't noticeably inconvenient to me and writing the standard way is simply a habit.

comment by ema · 2012-12-25T21:56:26.076Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I go without shaving my legs, I don't mind wearing stained clothing, I'll happily sit on wet grass

There are Communities where this is high status behavior. But i presume you would have considered this if you were to belong to such a community.

comment by prase · 2012-12-25T23:44:24.415Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

hypothesii

Typo?

comment by hyporational · 2012-12-24T23:10:28.617Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

She already admitted that status is useful, so this post could be both a grab for status and a genuine confession :P

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-25T00:07:23.853Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

She is actually a girl, but common mistake :)

comment by John_Maxwell_IV · 2012-12-28T09:20:47.545Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This actually seems potentially relevant--I think men and women may value status differently.

  • According to the book "You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation", for men, conversational subtext tends to be about status. For women, it tends to be more about the strength of the relationship. (Example: Men are supposedly reluctant to ask for directions because they don't want to appear submissive.)
  • Computer games men like seem to be about defeating opponents and advancing levels. Women play Farmville, though.
  • It seems likely that being high status in the EEA would've increased a man's reproductive success more than it would've increased a woman's. (Especially given polygyny, which is actually present in the majority of cultures studied: very interesting paper where I read this.)
  • Men seem to do more high-variance things like start bands and companies. From what I can tell, men make up the majority of political candidates.
comment by hyporational · 2012-12-31T11:36:54.218Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Could it be that men and women just gain and lose status for different kinds of actions? Alternatively what we call status is altogether composed of different things in men and women.

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-28T21:29:05.345Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In fairness, I like games that are about defeating opponents and advancing levels. My recent interests have included Diablo III, Guild Wars 2, and Mass Effect. I'm also polyamorous.

On the other hand, I haven't founded any companies and I'm usually comfortable asking for directions.

comment by hyporational · 2012-12-25T00:22:24.261Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Edited. I'm from a country of gender neutral pronouns :/

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-25T02:09:28.015Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It doesn't bother me :)

comment by CronoDAS · 2012-12-25T01:46:40.204Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Try replacing the word "status" with the word "respect" in this post.

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-25T02:01:14.626Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Hmmm, interesting. But my boss has more status than me even if no one respects him, neh? I've certainly had jobs where none of the underlings respected our boss.

comment by someonewrongonthenet · 2012-12-25T10:08:03.480Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, that's the point. Most humans do not care about status, they care about respect, admiration, love, etc. There are very few people on this earth whose goal is to lord it over other people.

You just scavenged an antelope carcass. You're slightly hungry, but nothing that can't be fixed by gathering a few berries. You have one of three options:

-Eat it all yourself.

-Give it to Mark, who's hungry and has three hungry kids

-Give it to Stacey, who's not in any particular need.

Option 1 - Everyone sort of dislikes you now. One of Mark's children dies of starvation. People do not share their resources with you anymore.

Option 2 - Mark is super grateful*4, and Stacey is mildly impressed by your generosity. Mark is willing to help you in the future. One of his children provides one of your children with a mate.

Option 3 - Mark really hates you now. Stacey is mildly grateful. Being smarter than you, she gives the carcass to mark, who is supergrateful*4 to her and willing to help her out in the future. One of his children provide one of her children with a mate.

That simple, obvious (to you, a human with a giant social brain) decision to give the antelope carcass to Mark creates a significant evolutionary pay-off. Evolution insures that you will do this action by programming you to get warm fuzzy hedons as a result of Mark's look of gratitude when you hand him the carcass.

Did you just gain status and possibly a hint of dominance over everyone involved? Sure. But, when I first posed the question, where you scheming about the expected payoff at the end? Probably not.

These mechanisms might have ultimately evolved because of the dominance and status effects, or because of the altruism related effects. But that doesn't mean status seeking was at the end of your utility function!

By the way, Mark was using "politics" too. Your families are linked now, to the mutual benefit of all, and he isn't indebted to you for your previous generosity anymore because your interests are now linked. But that wasn't at the end of his utility function either - he just likes you because you shared resources with him.

The key thing to recognize is that "manipulating" another person is usually not about getting the upper hand over them. It's just about maximizing your interest. Ignore the sociopathic overtones of the words used to describe the actions of selfish genes ... this thing you call "Status seeking" describes empathy and respect and everything we care about in humanity.

comment by ygert · 2012-12-26T22:35:54.679Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This is said often, but it just needs to be said again: Be careful with the amateur evolutionary psychology Just So Stories. They sound nice, but unless you are someone who deeply knows current evolutionary psychology research, you are basically making stuff up. Maybe guided making stuff up, but it is still a mistake to think that a stories like that explains much. The proof of its weakness is that it does not rule out anything much, as it is possible to invent a plausible sounding EvPsyc story to explain just about anything, true or false.

That said, in this particular case, you are not saying anything too radical, and I do not really object to the content of your post. But in general, this is a failure mode to be aware of, and to look out for and avoid doing.

comment by someonewrongonthenet · 2012-12-27T01:56:48.094Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You're right of course, but it couldn't be helped. The premise of the main post under discussion is "human intelligence evolved so that we could outwit one another, and therefore status seeking is a terminal value for most humans". There are so many evo-psych leaps in that sentence that I couldn't figure out how to even approach the topic without making a few leaps of my own. Maybe that was the wrong way to go about it, but I would like to think that lesswrongers implicitly understand these caveats whenever evo-psych is discussed.

Admittedly, my real justification for not believing that status seeking is a terminal value has got nothing to do with evolution. It's just that I know many people who behave in ways that would imply that status is not a high priority for them. Despite evolution not providing any positive evidence for my belief, I can see that my belief at the very least doesn't clash with my model of how evolution works, so I just put the two together to illustrate this lack-of-clashing.

I suppose that this would border on what people here term "dark arts", had I done this self consciously, since there was a discrepancy between the evidence which justified my belief and the arguments which I used to justified the claim.

The point I was trying to make (and should have stated more succinctly) is that the idea that intelligence arouse as part of runaway arms-race selection does not necessarily imply that humans must be very status seeking. Generating an alternative narrative to counter the proposed narrative was perhaps not the best method of getting that point across.

comment by CronoDAS · 2012-12-25T06:03:52.693Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly.

(Did said boss's superiors have a good opinion of him? Dilbert's "Pointy-Haired Boss" is good at exactly one thing - looking good to his own bosses, which is the motivation for some of his more ridiculous decisions.)

comment by falenas108 · 2012-12-25T03:45:54.998Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Depends on what there's no respect for. If a boss has no respect in terms of ability to do his jobs, he will most likely lose all status relating to his job as well (e.g. people will tend to work around him instead of through him).

comment by hyporational · 2012-12-24T22:44:54.724Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

How do you gain knowledge of other people's terminal values, or even your own?

I don't believe status is my terminal value. I don't think it's a value at all. I think it's a useful umbrella term for all the lower level optimization processes that the blind idiot god decided to throw in.

Do you not value praise or criticism? Do you not care if you're useful to others? Do you not care if you get to delegate instead of DIY? Do you not care if you get to choose your sexual partners? Etc...

I cautiously suggest some of these hint at the actual terminal values under the umbrella.

comment by Epiphany · 2012-12-25T21:46:01.279Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How do you gain knowledge of other people's terminal values, or even your own?

Be in an extreme situation that involves a devastating turn of events like a serious illness or losing everything in a disaster. As examples, Victor Frankl had some great insights into his own and other's terminal values after experiencing a concentration camp (that people seek meaning and get meaning from ideals, not power or survival or pleasure) and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi had a deep insight into what makes people happy (flow state).

In my case, I have experienced a devastating turn of events, so I am pretty sure of what my terminal values are: closeness, and changing the world to make it more ideal.

I am not sure why I want them, but they are what I live for - I'm completely sure of that.

comment by hyporational · 2012-12-30T06:08:26.111Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Alternatives:

Your instrumental values changed dramatically and very visibly, so you confused them for your terminal values. Your terminal values changed, and you didn't gain any insight to what they were before. Your terminal values didn't change, but are weighed differently now. Your terminal values didn't change, you're still optimizing for the same things you did before, and are just using different kind of language.

As an exercise, what kinds of smaller parts can the terminal values you mentioned be chopped into?

Anyways, I'm pretty reluctant to use "instrumental" and "terminal" for humans anymore. People's values seem so volatile and thickly veiled that it's not a useful distinction.

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-25T00:42:05.992Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How do you gain knowledge of other people's terminal values, or even your own?

Well, observation. If a person routinely acquires status even though it DOESN'T further any of their goals, they presumably value status as a terminal value. If someone only acquires status WHEN it's instrumentally valuable, then it's presumably not a terminal goal.

Sort of like how I eat chocolate because it's pleasant, not because I'm hungry :)

A lot of the examples you gave are instrumentally valuable. From someone trustworthy, I prefer criticism because it helps me improve, but praise is important for gauging that I HAVE improved and I'm not just wasting effort.

Being useful to others makes them useful to me. I state this explicitly to my friends - I am generous because it encourages them to be generous back. I also find that it's simply EASIER to be generous, because I like happy friends more than disappointed friends, and because "yes" rarely gets me pestered to change my mind.

I would be annoyed if I was forced to make a suboptimal decision between delegating and DIY, because I value efficiency. I also really, really, hate being forced to do stupid things. I've enjoyed delegating but I largely prefer DIY, which is why I'm not a manager anymore.

I'm near-asexual, so being denied sexual partners doesn't bother me. Rape would provoke serious violence, it's not something I associate with low status.... (I'm simplifying vastly here, since a full discussion seems irrelevant :))

comment by hyporational · 2012-12-25T01:26:28.654Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, observation. If a person routinely acquires status even though it DOESN'T further any of their goals, they presumably value status as a terminal value. If someone only acquires status WHEN it's instrumentally valuable, then it's presumably not a terminal goal.

This seems slightly circular to me. For both of the observations to work, you'd already have to know some of the person's terminal values. I believe this doesn't get any easier even if you're observing yourself.

For the other points, I appreciate your elaboration, but I was more like hoping to invoke the consideration that social status is a very fuzzy concept, and probably too high level to be optimized by evolution anyway. Once you invent the concept, then I guess you can shortcut some social computation... and get some cognitive biases as a side effect.

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-25T02:03:02.742Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Status is fuzzy, but so is intelligence. Given that dominance and hierarchies are important to many primates, I'd consider the DEFAULT assumption to be that humans DO value all of that, and you'd need to present evidence that humans are somehow exceptional...

comment by shminux · 2012-12-24T21:39:29.978Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I wish I could say that I don't value status. But whom would I be kidding. It gives me warm fuzzies when people I value appreciate and respect me. My guess is that this trait is mostly innate, rather then acquired.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-25T01:00:08.047Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I wish I could say that I don't value status. But whom would I be kidding. It gives me warm fuzzies when people I value appreciate and respect me.

Me too, but...

My guess is that this trait is mostly innate, rather then acquired.

I'm pretty sure I didn't use to be like that. As far as I can tell (though my introspection is far from perfect), I started off as a nerd who didn't care about status at all (either instrumentally or terminally), then realized status is instrumentally useful, started to pursue it, and eventually find myself getting warm fuzzies from it. A subgoal stomp has occurred.

Also...

people I value

There are plenty of people who care about what other people whom they don't know and who aren't likely to ever non-trivially interact with them think of them; whereas I don't give a damn (either instrumentally or terminally) what strangers think, except insofar as they might become non-strangers.

EDIT: Note that I might be have a different view of status than most people here. For example, many say that status is zero-sum by definition, but if status is something like “one's value as an ally” (and/or stuff that correlated with that in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness), not only can't I see why that would be zero-sum, but I'd also actually prefer other people to be high-status than low-status all other things being equal.

comment by Username · 2012-12-31T17:10:19.199Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My guess is that this trait is mostly innate, rather then acquired.

I'm pretty sure I didn't use to be like that. As far as I can tell (though my introspection is far from perfect), I started off as a nerd who didn't care about status at all (either instrumentally or terminally), then realized status is instrumentally useful, started to pursue it, and eventually find myself getting warm fuzzies from it. A subgoal stomp has occurred.

Did this happen during your developmental years? This seems to be a typical high school experience, which would lead me to believe that it is more of an innate process people go through. (Albiet a lot of people are inherently social at a very young age).

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-01T14:21:29.990Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No, I was in my twenties. The process started when I was studying abroad and living in a residence (AmE: dorm), and living with a bunch of people none of whom I had known beforehand probably played a huge role (though the process I described in the grandparent took a couple years to complete, by which time I had been back in my country for about a year, and been reading LW for about half a year). (The experience of no longer wanting to be a reclusive geek and starting to want to have a social life did happen when in high school and only took a few months, but it's not like I tried to be as popular as possible: not being in the bottom decile kind of sufficed.)

comment by Jabberslythe · 2012-12-24T23:35:41.951Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I wish I could say that I don't value status

Would you feel better if you could suppress low status emotions like sympathy for people who are sexually attracted to children or animals? Or if you could feel okay never shaving or buying new clothes?

I'm not even sure people want to want to not care about status.

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-25T00:27:36.188Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, guilty as charged. I don't shave my legs, and routinely wear clothing that reveals that :)

It's really pretty pleasant, I can't imagine why you wouldn't want to be like me. I can still play dress up for interviews, I just get the option to Not Care when it's not instrumentally useful :)

(Downside: I routinely have less available social capital, which means the few times I want to make high-status requests, it's a complete pain. It's so rare that the instrumental value just doesn't seem worth the effort, though)

comment by Jabberslythe · 2012-12-25T00:43:17.452Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

There are the other status questions that I asked, if you don't care about shaving.

Also, contrarian cred is still cred. If you are seeking the approval of people who are defined by their lack of compliance, that is still seeking approval. I don't know if that is the case or not for you, but it often is.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-12-24T22:00:37.568Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I think politics is a good word here, because status and politics are not quite the same.

It was apparent to me long ago that there was a social competition going on, much of which I had no interest in and found annoying, but I've seen that it has effects on me that I shouldn't ignore. It's a zero sum social war, but the bullets are real.

I'd rather spend time with people who competed for status by production of some good or excellence in truth, as opposed to disinformation and in group jockeying used to tear people down. How do I better arrange that?

It means everything I'd pieced together about people is utterly, utterly wrong, because it assumed that they all valued truth, and understanding - the pursuits of intelligence when you don't have the political trait.

No, people don't all value that. And the news gets worse - it appears to me that people who believe in epistemic truth lose to people who believe in social truth; that not surprisingly, people who believe in social truth have a social advantage.

comment by Epiphany · 2012-12-25T23:51:12.827Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Status perceptions are tricksy things

It seems to me that a lot of people read status moves into just about every action. The way that a lot of people define it is not to define it at all - everything becomes connected with status. If you behave in just about any way at all, it will be perceived as desired or undesired, and that gets added into the status evaluation. The way some people use it, it's like they're trying to create the ultimate hasty generalization.

Considering the all-encompassing nature of status perceptions, I don't see a way to invalidate them, so I hope that anyone reading status into this discussion post is thinking "If I can't think of a way to invalidate my perceptions through testing, might my perceptions of status-seeking work exactly like the Barnum effect - I paint status seeking perceptions with such a wide brush that everybody qualifies as status-seeking by my definition?"

If you claim not to be motivated by status, you will have difficulty finding anything to say or do that escapes other's status evaluations for that reason.

There are incentives, as well, for others to read status moves into your actions. If most of the group is evaluating your status, and someone is competing with you for status, this someone has to alter the group's opinions of their own status relative to yours. Failing to evaluate your status would leave them at a disadvantage. More importantly, not believing that you're actively seeking status would put them at a further disadvantage by preventing them from trying to predict what status moves you will make next.

How should status be defined?

Pitfalls of status perceptions:

I see a lot of people making the kinds of mistakes that are described in 37 ways words can be wrong:

5 The act of labeling something with a word, disguises a challengable inductive inference you are making.

8 Your verbal definition doesn't capture more than a tiny fraction of the category's shared characteristics, but you try to reason as if it does.

11 You ask whether something "is" or "is not" a category member but can't name the question you really want answered.

12 You treat intuitively perceived hierarchical categories like the only correct way to parse the world, without realizing that other forms of statistical inference are possible even though your brain doesn't use them.

13 You talk about categories as if they are manna fallen from the Platonic Realm

23 The existence of a neat little word prevents you from seeing the details of the thing you're trying to think about.

24 You have only one word, but there are two or more different things-in-reality, so that all the facts about them get dumped into a single undifferentiated mental bucket.

I do not see a way to create and use status perceptions that doesn't qualify as a logical fallacy, bias or "way that words can be wrong". This is the reason why I say "I don't believe in status." It's not that I don't think other people are creating status perceptions. It's that I think the status perceptions they create are irrational.

How I evaluate others without status perceptions:

I think an easier question to address in public than "Do I care about my own status?" is "Do I make status evaluations of others?" and this is relevant because if you don't care about status, you theoretically shouldn't evaluate others that way, either. Here is how I evaluate people without using status:

People are systems and they're out there interacting in a system. They are not just little bundles of traits, so it makes no sense to me to lump all of these traits together into a status evaluation (committing mistakes #5, #8 and/or #24) and rank everyone in a hierarchical organization scheme (committing mistake #12). If I want a person in my life for some purpose (lover, friend, etc.) my question is not "Which options are high status?" but "What interactions do I want to have with the chosen person and which specific traits are necessary for that?" (Avoiding mistake #11).

Essentially, I create specific questions to answer, break my perceptions down into component parts and consider how the traits of the person will play out in context in terms of cause and effect. This is the only way to get the specifics of my social needs fulfilled and it helps me avoid the halo effect.

Ranking people by status looks about as useful to me as guessing the teacher's password is for answering questions about how things work.

Understanding the cause and effect is also how I go about understanding myself. Other people's perceptions of me have little to no influence on my ideas about myself because my ideas about myself are far more complex and detailed than theirs are. This is how I ended up caring so little about what others think of me.

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-26T03:02:30.841Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Ranking people by status"

My first reaction is "people DO that?"

I can evaluate status in a very crude sense, but the algorithm seems to be a combination of HasAuthority and Friends_With_Authority. So Co-Worker A, who is friends with the CEO, can probably make higher-status requests than I can. And my boss can obviously do that. But the idea that Co-Worker A could have more status than my boss is a concept I can't evaluate; as far as I can tell it just can't be true.

comment by Epiphany · 2012-12-26T03:58:58.361Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My first reaction is "people DO that?"

I think so? I mean, if status can be high or low, that does imply a ranking. I don't know how detailed they get about it, but I think the idea is to have a hierarchy when you're finished.

can probably make higher-status requests than I can

I don't even have that. I just do whatever makes sense for the situation and then when people behave in a way that makes what I'm doing dysfunctional, I go "What the heck?" Then, I look at it in hindsight and go "Oh, yeah. Status games exist. Right."

This is probably not good, but considering my level of motivation, it's going to take a while for me to learn to think of these things in advance...

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-26T19:00:57.350Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have an unfortunate tendency to also run head-long in to "right, the reason this isn't working is that I don't have sufficient status to make that request", and then being very puzzled. I'd been slowly mapping this out beforehand, but this revelation was apparently a useful insight in to doing a quick, fairly heavy update. Hopefully in the future I will be a lot more aware of why things are failing, even if I'm not otherwise improving :)

comment by MrMind · 2012-12-31T08:24:31.973Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Speaking from a male perspective, I view status as an instrumental value for sex. You say in the comment below (above?) that a terminal value is so when you trade other values for it: do you see often men exchanging sex for status? I think status remains an instrumental value because underneath every calculation there's the question: "If I do this, I'll have access to more females". Also I'm not surprised that as a female you're not concerned with status (besides some very rare alpha females, aka queen bees, females don't). So:
a) I don't value status --> meh, not surprising said from a female human (which usually competes for attention, not status)
b) other people do value status terminally --> I doubt it, I think status is instrumental for sex
c) I assumed they all value truth and understanding --> Haha, I pity you :p

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-31T18:42:52.118Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A vow of celibacy is a way of trading sex -> status. Ditto just committing to "no sex before marriage" or even just avoiding casual sex / polyamory / adultery.

c) Yeah, I deserve that :)

comment by MrMind · 2013-01-08T15:56:00.108Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A vow of celibacy is a way of trading sex -> status

Yes, it is.

Ditto just committing to "no sex before marriage" or even just avoiding casual sex / polyamory / adultery.

That's true only if you actually have liberal access to as much sex as you want, which usually is not the way most males perceive themselves. No sex before marriage is just a way to sacrifice a little of sex now to a (presumable) lot of sex later.

comment by handoflixue · 2013-01-11T21:22:27.527Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I suppose "no sex before marriage" really depends on culture. If the most reliable way to get ANY sex is such a commitment, then you're probably right.

Outside of such a culture, though... well, the women with higher sex drives are presumably LESS likely to want to wait until marriage, so by waiting you both delay gratification AND probably end up with a partner who has below-average sex drive. AND you've made it more difficult for yourself to change partners.

Of course, whether the average male believes this to be true is another matter entirely :)

Suffice to say, if sex is a terminal value and you're able to move cities, this is blatantly the incorrect strategy. So either "no sex before marriage" is used by people who don't know better, or there's some other factor that has a higher priority :)

I can't think of any real gain to "no sex before marriage" beyond the status/reputation aspect, so I'd be forced to conclude that it is indeed an aspect of trading sex -> status/reputation

comment by OrphanWilde · 2013-01-11T21:40:40.283Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"No sex before marriage" could make casual dating less expensive, meaning you're more likely to find somebody more compatible with you. Polyamory is of course another solution, but is socially expensive.

comment by handoflixue · 2013-01-11T22:37:33.120Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why would "not having sex" make dating cheaper?

"Polyamory is of course another solution, but is socially expensive."

I'd think that would be an example of "trading status to gain sex", so presumably the opposite is true of refusing this option. So we seem to be in agreement there at least...

comment by OrphanWilde · 2013-01-11T22:41:21.288Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Socially expensive, not financially expensive; it's kind of theoretic either way, because if we posit a society in which "No sex before marriage" is the standard, we might as well posit a society in which polyamory is the standard, but in the case of such a society, there would be less resistance to casual dating.

comment by handoflixue · 2013-01-14T18:47:00.471Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

a society in which "No sex before marriage" is the standard

That seems an unfair comparison, since, as far as I know, there actually ARE quite a few examples of that, both historically and currently. I'm not aware of anywhere near the same level of polyamory-as-standard (it generally seems to be polygamy or some other variant where high status earns you additional mates, rather than the "Bay Area" style of simply dating multiple people)

comment by Benquo · 2012-12-31T19:46:38.686Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A vow of celibacy is a way of trading sex -> status.

If it's sincere, and you you don't secretly change your mind later. Nepotism is what they called it when supposedly celibate church officials favored their secret children (whom they called their "nephews").

Ditto just committing to "no sex before marriage" or even just avoiding casual sex / polyamory / adultery.

In those cases the status gives you access to sex partners who insist on a monogamous partner.

comment by bbleeker · 2012-12-26T10:05:45.826Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It means everything I'd pieced together about people is utterly, utterly wrong, because it assumed that they all valued truth, and understanding

Can't a person value status and truth and understanding?

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-26T18:46:12.662Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but my anecdotal experience is that people who have both Knowledge AND Status as "terminal" values is fairly rare I'd assume there's also people who value neither :)

comment by tim · 2012-12-27T05:33:49.727Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would think that status-seeking behaviors would be more overt than truth-seeking and thus easier to identify in others.

Data point: I value both.

comment by cousin_it · 2012-12-25T19:26:37.509Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Phil Goetz had a nice post about how status makes FAI difficult:

Now imagine two friendly AIs, one non-positional and one positional.

The non-positional FAI has a tough task. It wants to give everyone what it imagines they want.

But the positional FAI has an impossible task. It wants to give everyone what it is that it thinks they value, which is to be considered better than other people, or at least better than other people of the same sex. But it's a zero-sum value.

comment by John_Maxwell_IV · 2012-12-28T09:32:35.931Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Taking an acting class may do interesting things to the way you value status. Based on my limited experience, having everyone in the class play low and high status roles can create a highly compassionate, cooperative, and egalitarian environment.

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-28T21:26:26.478Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I actually love acting, so that might be part of it. I have trouble playing... "arrogant, high-status people who feel their opinions are worth more solely because of their status", though. I can read the lines, but I can't really "get in to character".

comment by vi21maobk9vp · 2012-12-25T18:20:01.928Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, what you may wonder is whether utility of increased status just has a complex shape for you.

For example, I can imagine some situation of having too little status, but in most cases I get what is enough personally for me before even trying.

comment by dhoe · 2012-12-25T14:34:43.599Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

H: Person x has no desire for status

E: Person x writes a post about how she's unlike most other people.

You already assigned P(H) as 0.1 (or quite possibly lower). Now you only need to estimate P(E|H) and P(E|~H), plug it all into Bayes rule, and you'll see why people are not really buying it. It doesn't mean you're wrong - it's just unlikely that you're right.

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-26T02:53:56.125Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

H: Person x has no desire for status

E: Person x writes a post about how she has no desire for status

Now do the math, and suddenly it seems rather likely...

Also... erm... my priors say that "being unlike most other people" is generally LOW status. People don't comment on how they like Obama because he's part of the 1% and has never set foot inside McDonalds...

comment by asparisi · 2012-12-26T05:16:48.203Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Eh... but people like rock stars even though most people are NOT rock stars. People like people with really good looks even though most people don't have good looks. And most people do have some sort of halo effect on wealthy people they actually meet, if not "the 1%" as a class.

I am not sure that a person who has no desire for status will write a post about how they have no desire for status that much more often than someone who does desire status. Particularly if this "desire" can be stronger or weaker. So it could be:

A- The person really doesn't seek status and wants to express this fact for a non-status reason. B- The person does seek status but doesn't self identify as someone who seeks status, and wants to express this fact for a non-status reason. C- The person does seek status but doesn't self identify as someone who seeks status, and wants to express that they do not seek status on the gamble that being seen as a person who does not want status will heighten their status. D- The person does seek status and is gambling that being seen as a person who does not want status will heighten their status.

A has the advantage of simplicity, but its advantage is roughly on par with that of D. B is more complicated and C is more complicated, but not that much more as far as human ideas seem to run. And the set of all "status seekers" who would write such a post is {B, C, D}, and I'd say that the probability of that set is higher than the probability of A.

So all things being equal, I'd say that P(E|~H)>P(E|H). Which may still not lead to the right answer here. Now, if saying "I don't seek status" was definitely a status losing behavior, I'd say that would shift things drastically as it would render {B, C, D} as improbable on more than bare simplicity. But I really don't have a good evaluation for that, so I'd have to run on just the simplicity alone.

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-26T19:03:41.908Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Y'know, that reply (of mine) misses the point: Read this thread, and pay attention to the voting. Most every comment of mine is a 0 or a 1 karma post. There's lots of 5-10 karma posts in this thread.

If I value status to the point that I'm willing to lie, why am I so bad at it? :)

comment by asparisi · 2012-12-26T20:12:38.022Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, effectiveness and desire are two different things.

That aside, you could be posting for desires that are non-status related and still desire status. Human beings are certainly capable of wanting more than one thing at a time. So even if this post was motivated by some non-status related desire, that fact would not, in and of itself, be evidence that you don't desire status.

I'm not actually suggesting you update for you: you have a great deal more access to the information present inside your head than I do. I don't even have an evidence-based argument: merely a parsimony based one, which is weak at best. I wouldn't think of suggesting it unless I had some broader evidence that people who claim "I don't desire status" really do. I have no such evidence.

The original post was why the argument "This post is evidence that I do not seek status" is unconvincing. I was merely pointing out that even if we use your version of E, it isn't very good evidence for H. (Barring some data to change that, of course.)

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-27T09:11:40.211Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In a vacuum, and assuming a perfectly spherical point, I think we agree :)

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-26T18:58:51.385Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Can we agree that "being different" can be both dangerous or beneficial? I've been raised with the idea that my brand of different, in general, is dangerous for me (threatened with expulsion from school, numerous threats of violence until I learned to shut up about some topics), so my prior is that any abnormal behaviour of mine is more likely dangerous than beneficial.

As to the rest, I think we'll just have to disagree - you're making a good point from an external standpoint, but nothing that would really prompt ME to update (for one thing, I like to think I'm smart and socially skilled enough to pull vastly more than a +10 on a post if I just wanted status :))

comment by jimrandomh · 2012-12-25T00:50:15.209Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The word "status" needs some disambiguation here. A person's status is (A) the amount of power they have, (B) the level of accomplishment and skill they have, (C) other peoples' perceptions of A and B, (D) their own perception of A-C, and (E) the signals they give off based on D. People execute adaptations that optimize C, by controlling D and E, but it's not as straightforward as trying to maximize it; in a more primitive society, that would just get you killed.

comment by Jabberslythe · 2012-12-24T22:57:53.642Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think that status probably acts like a terminal goal in my decision making (status is an abstraction, I know). I've mostly gotten over feeling that is a bad thing. It's just another need I have to satisfy, and being aware of it as a distinct value really helps to optimize getting it and helps with not compromising other goals when I am pursuing it.

comment by asparisi · 2012-12-25T05:48:58.512Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hm. I know that the biological term may not be quite right here (although the brain is biological, scaling this idea up may be problematic) but I have wondered if certain psychological traits are not epigenetic: that is, it isn't that you are some strange mutant if you express terminal value X strongly and someone else expresses it weakly. Rather, that our brain structures lead to a certain common set of shared values but that different environmental conditions lead to those values being expressed in a stronger or weaker sense.

So, for instance, if "status" (however that cashes out here) is highly important instrumentally in ones younger years, the brain develops that into a terminal value. If "intelligence" (again, cashing that out will be important) is highly important instrumentally in younger years, than it develops into a terminal value. It isn't that anyone else is a horrible mutant, we probably all share values, but those values may conflict and so it may matter which traits we express more strongly. Of course, if it is anything like an epigentic phenomenon then there may be some very complicated factors to consider.

Possible falsifiers for this: if environment, particularly social environment (although evolution is dumb and it could be some mechanism that just correlates highly) in formative years does not correlate highly with terminal values later in life. If people actually do seem to share a set of values with relatively equal strength. If terminal values are often modified strongly after the majority of brain development has ceased. If some terminal values do not correlate with some instrumental value, but nevertheless vary strongly between individuals.

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-26T02:59:34.697Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

As a kid, my parents gave me a TON of trouble for exhibiting routine low-status behaviour (chewing on my shirt, refusing to wear a shirt, wearing stained shirts, showering once or twice a week, getting all sorts of dirty, eating food with the wrong fork...), and my mom specifically taught me a fair amount of etiquette (correct fork, how to set a table for a 3-course meal, so on)

So, I'm anecdotally evidence against your theory :)

comment by asparisi · 2012-12-26T05:02:00.961Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I upvoted it because the minimum we'd get without running a study would be anecdotal evidence.

I'm not sure that there is a close link between "status" and "behaving." Most of the kids I knew who I would call "status-seeking" were not particularly well behaved: often the opposite. Most of the things you are talking about seem to fall into "good behavior" rather than "status."

Additionally... well, we'd probably need to track a whole lot of factors to figure out which ones, based on your environment, would be selected for. And currently, I have no theory as to which timeframes would be the most important to look at, which would make such a search more difficult.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-26T17:26:49.543Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There may be important differences between avoiding low status and seeking high status.

comment by asparisi · 2012-12-26T20:14:56.866Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Definitely. These are the sorts of things that would need to be evaluated if my very rough sketch were to be turned into an actual theory of values.

comment by bbleeker · 2012-12-26T11:38:49.824Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Good behaviour on your part would get your parents higher status with their peers, bad behaviour (for certain values of 'bad') would get you higher status with your peers.

comment by Decius · 2012-12-24T23:18:23.259Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What would evidence for or against 'people in general view status as a terminal goal' look like?

comment by handoflixue · 2012-12-25T00:44:24.166Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

They do things that gain them status at the EXPENSE of their other values.

comment by TrE · 2012-12-25T09:42:59.643Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Status were a powerful motivator, even more so that material goods/money. Money were spent for status-raising activities.

(those two are actually the case, if my memory doesn't fail me.)

comment by Decius · 2012-12-25T21:50:22.248Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How would that be different if status was an instrumental goal, and was simply perceived to be more instrumental than the time and money spent towards acquiring it? (The actual instrumental value of status is irrelevant...)

comment by TrE · 2012-12-25T22:24:21.938Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Money has great, and nearly universal, instrumental value. That people give up money for status is not proof that status is terminal, but it's bayesian evidence.

comment by Decius · 2012-12-26T20:58:48.264Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Statues also has instrumental value. People give up status for money as well.

One possibility is that people are performing arbitrage between status and money, as the relative costs and instrumental value of status and money change for them. Another is that they are both terminal values competing for each other. I see no way to distinguish between the two.

comment by Rukifellth · 2012-12-24T22:06:10.737Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

When we hear of people seeking status, we recall the consequences of pursuit of status (loneliness, strife), rather than what status itself causes for the people who achieve it (freedom, sense of having done something important). Since the action of imagining that status could mean the latter is made impossible due to awareness of the former, the feeling of lostness arises, from a lack of a reference point to empathize with the feelings of others that believe these things.

I don't know what to make of this. It means everything I'd pieced together about people is utterly, utterly wrong, because it assumed that they all valued truth, and understanding - the pursuits of intelligence when you don't have the political trait.

Literal emotional reactions are assigned to situations and concepts all the time, but ultimately, every person on Earth just wants to feel at rest, with the awareness that nothing bad is happening and the awareness of opportunities and/or warmth around them. Therefore, everyone (that means yourself and myself!) seeks truth and understanding, it's just that the very words "truth" and "understanding" are assigned different emotional reactions, and so are given different priorities based on the life situation of the people being queried of these concepts.

Therefore the most one can say about people is not that they don't seek truth or understanding, but rather, they've chosen a different means to get to the place that truth or understanding lead to.

If I may ask, is this line of thinking limited or global in emotional significance?

comment by Decius · 2012-12-24T23:17:37.203Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If people seek different things that are named "truth" and "understanding", then it seems wrong to say that everyone seeks truth and understanding.

comment by Rukifellth · 2012-12-24T23:24:24.876Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

True. Would "desires" be more appropriate than "seek"?

comment by Decius · 2012-12-25T05:15:20.753Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The point was that we are using the same name to refer to different things.

comment by Rukifellth · 2012-12-25T06:05:21.369Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not necessarily. While for every person "truth" and "understanding" have require different thought processes in objective reality, the subjective feeling for everyone is similar enough for them to be considered universal values that most people at least desire. This works best if "truth" and "understanding" are considered states of mind that everyone has subjective triggers for, because it allows for an objective reality of "truth" and "understanding", while preserving the notion of subjective definitions and requirements.

While everyone therefore desires truth and understanding, they may not seek it because those concepts aren't considered necessary or connected for other desirable things. I may have misunderstood the OP's dilemma- was he disturbed by the idea that people don't value truth and understanding?

comment by Decius · 2012-12-25T06:38:41.216Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Value those things intrinsically or value them instrumentally?

comment by Rukifellth · 2012-12-25T15:24:22.188Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Intrinsically. It may just be that they're not seeking it at the moment.

comment by Decius · 2012-12-25T21:31:42.416Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know anyone who claims to have found Zen enlightenment and been dissatisfied with it; perhaps it is theoretically impossible to do so.

But I do know people who are perfectly happy with half-truths and partial ignorance.

comment by Rukifellth · 2012-12-26T18:24:16.678Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That isn't an inconsistency if people can have more than one intrinsic value.

EDIT: Ahh, I'm not sure I follow what you wrote there.

comment by Decius · 2012-12-26T20:50:59.109Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I meant 'Perhaps it is impossible to find Zen enlightenment without being the kind of person that would be happy with that.

I don't know how to evaluate people who have multiple intrinsic values but seek stability where fewer than all of them are reached.

comment by Jabberslythe · 2012-12-24T23:58:19.538Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Your first paragraph seems like it could apply to anything people care about, not just status.

comment by Rukifellth · 2012-12-26T18:25:42.198Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It can, it's a specific application of a general principle.

comment by PVJFh8zZld · 2012-12-25T11:50:57.590Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, why are you sharing this discovery? What makes you present yourself in positive light as thinking outwards, even though that distracts from the point you're trying to make? Yes, indeed, the status may be a terminal value for most people, and furthermore, what if most people are unaware of that?