What makes social status?

How we identify leaders? how we get to be identified as leaders? Have you ever wondered about how you look at a group and somehow choose to address one person rather than another. How does a server choose who to hand the check to?

This week I read a brief article about research done at Columbia University on, among other, how people recognize social status and how they react to it.

According to this research, “the brain region most actively involved in anticipating rewards is the one we use to track down (these) individuals” who will most likely bring in revenue or become a powerful ally.

In other words and bluntly said, survival requires us to quickly identify who can help us gain and therefor who we need to suck up to.


A Ted-talk I want to link to this is that by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “We should all be feminists”. 

In her genial and brilliantly insightful talk Chimamanda mentions how she was shocked when treating a male friend to an outing and paying the server. Although the whole transaction had been between her and the server, the server then looked at her friend with a big smile and thanked him!…

Clearly, in this server’s mind, the money had to originate from the man in the party who had then granted some to the woman for useful or frivolous expenses.


This used to also be the case here in Belgium but nowadays, servers have been used to women earning their own money and have improved their ways. Chimamanda didn’t mention if she ever tipped that server again but, if you want a tip, you’d better learn fast about the changing signs of social status.

Part of the change is driven by the increasing number of women taking the check in their restaurant. But it is also important for these servers to be aware of their behaviour and how changing that behaviour can be good for their business. 

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