Columbia Business School (CBS) recently published an article about a new Journal of Consumer Research study from CBS Professor Silvia Bellezza that finds Americans “increasingly perceive busy and overworked people as having high status.”
Whereas high-status Americans of yore would affirm their place in society by telling tales of poolside leisure, high-status Americans today are “more likely to engage in humblebrag, telling those around them how they ‘have no life’ or desperately need a vacation,” she writes. Surprising or not, “the effect is reversed for Italians.”
Bellezza notes the peculiar way high-status Americans demonstrate this equation between busyness and social standing. “We uncovered an alternative type of conspicuous consumption that operated by shifting the focus from the preciousness and scarcity of goods to the preciousness and scarcity of individuals.”
The use of products and services showcasing one’s jam-packed schedule–such as food delivery options from Peapod and Whole Foods–can also convey status because of their “associations with timesaving and a busy lifestyle,” Bellezza writes. “People’s social-mobility beliefs are psychologically driven by the perception that busy individuals possess desirable characteristics, leading them to be viewed as scarce and in demand.”
Bellezza and her co-authors, Harvard’s Neeru Pahari and Anat Keinan, found “that the more we believe that people have the opportunity for social affirmation based on hard work, the more we tend to think that people who skip leisure and work all the time are of higher standing.”
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