Body of Evidence: Top of the Heap
Name: Sonja Tremont-Morgan
Tremont-Morgan, once married to a descendant of J.P. Morgan and John
Adams, is very aware of social status, having put herself through
college and now donating her energy and resources to benefits around the
world. Not one to take her current lifestyle for granted, she says,
“Education is a great luxury.”
- King Kong of the HillYour place in the pecking order may predict your susceptibility to
addiction. Thanks to chronic social strain, neural reward centers are
less active in subordinate monkeys than in dominant ones. As a result,
stressful encounters increase beta primates’ demands for cocaine.
- Lab Partner from HellCollaborating for just a few minutes with someone who dominates the
assignment can increase your cardiovascular reactivity to stress. Study
participants who worked with an assertive partner and then performed a
tension-inducing follow-up task saw a higher increase in systolic blood
pressure than those paired with a deferential teammate.
- Cold ShouldersFeeling high on the totem pole could spare you a lot of sneezes. A
study in which people were exposed to a virus and then quarantined
showed that those who rated their socioeconomic status (SES) the lowest
were much more likely to come down with sniffles than were others. Less
sound sleep among those low on the ladder partially caused the sickening
- Mind Your MannerismsEven without bling, your body exudes elaborate clues to wealth.
Watching someone’s casual conversational behavior for only a minute
provides enough info to guess his SES better than chance. While those
with fewer resources show more signs of engagement, such as nodding and
laughing, the well-heeled remain aloof.
- The Young and the SES-lessGrowing up downtrodden may permanently sensitize you to social
threats. Young adults raised by parents with low SES react more
emotionally to angry faces than do others.
- Say UncleWhy do some people step up their game after an embarrassing defeat
while others roll over and play dead? Social anxiety has a big role.
Although baseline testosterone levels—associated with dominance—are no
lower in the socially anxious, these worriers respond to drops in status
with dips in the hormone and a submissive white flag.
Author: Matthew Hutson
Social status reveals a wealth about health. Having more confidence
and resources can shield you from ill health.