Does status make you stupid?
Michael Vassar once suggested: “Status makes people effectively stupid, as it makes it harder for them to update their public positions without feeling that they are losing face.”
This is the opening sentence of an excellent article (a three minute read) titled High status and stupidity: Why?
In the article Eliezer Yudkowsky makes 10 hypotheses for why high status people are stupid, and several points on how to avoid the status-makes-you-stupid effect:
For me this hypothesis this stood out:
Point Five: High-status individuals spend more time on dinners and politics, and less time on problem-solving and reading;
they exercise their minds less.
Point Eight: High-status individuals feel less social pressure to listen to your arguments, respond articulately to them, or change their minds when their own arguments are inadequate, which decreases their apparent or real intelligence.
How to avoid the status-makes-you-stupid effect, points that resonated with me included:
- I try to feel a small flash of self-satisfaction whenever I publicly admit that I am wrong, over what a good rationalist I am being and what a good impression I am making. Not so much satisfaction that I forget that it’s better to be correct in the first place, but enough to be a counter-force to the fear of losing face.
- I refuse to conform to people’s expectations of a wise sage who always speaks with kindness and sober deliberation, of which I have said: “I am not bloody Gandalf.”
Own the Conversation
Over the next seven days, purposely look for instances when you are wrong or unsure and admit when you are wrong or unsure.