Personality & Esteem: Why Popularity Doesn’t Lend Respect
In the article, “Who Attains Social Status? Effects of Personality and Physical Attractiveness in Social Groups”, by Anderson and colleagues, the authors sought to examine the effects that certain personality traits may have on one’s ability to gain high status within a given group.
From the “Big 5” static personality traits, Extraversion was found to be positively correlated with status attainment in both male and female groups – at least concerning measures of popularity.
Levels of individual Openness, Consciousness, and Agreeableness were not greatly useful in predicting later status. However, high levels of Neuroticism were found to be much more detrimental to status attainment in male groups than in female groups.
Attractiveness was also found to be more important in male groups than female groups in regards to status.
While the assertion that levels of Extraversion would positively correlate with status attainment holds merit, I do not believe status is what was measured by the researchers in their first study.
As highlighted in the literature review, there are three accepted components of status:
1) Prominence [or popularity]
2) Respect, and
The researchers only attempted to measure the prominence and influence components, NOT fully capturing the concept of ‘status’.
Prominence or ‘popularity’ was measured with a rating of: [0 -4 how well a given fraternity member was known].
Influence was measured using positions of power within the fraternity(rush chairman etc.).
The first measure of popularity was high in face validity and can be said to be reliable. However, the second measures use of arbitrary positions of responsibility within a fraternity to measure the factor of influence is problematic.
For example, a member may have gained such a position uncontested by other members and said position may in fact garner little respect or influence within the group.
Moreover, if a member did rise to a position through popular vote, is this measure of “influence” also capturing the measure of “prominence” or “popularity”.
From this critique it seems as if this study only truly measures popularity.
This is troubling because popularity functions separately from respect and other measures of status – it may also, in fact, be detrimental to these measures.
I say this because, while wide popularity may foster general acceptance and liking, it can have a negative impact on the component of respect and esteem.
This popularity/respect tradeoff can happen when others view all of one’s pro-social behavior under a lens of suspicion, possibly seeing group appeasement gestures as disingenuous and pandering.
For these reasons, it may be wise to determine whether you want to be widely popular in a new social group, or widely respected… Walking the fine line in-between may be more difficult than previously imagined.
Emry, J. (2016). Personality & Esteem: Why Popularity Doesn’t Lend Respect. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 17, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/psychology-personality/2016/09/14/766-james-emry/