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Signaling high social status could make us less attractive to potential friends.

By Annie McDonough, published November 6, 2018 - last reviewed on January 1, 2019

Claudia K/Shutterstock
Claudia K/Shutterstock

Dress to impress, put your best foot forward—such advice may get you the job, but when you're looking for friendship, don't lead with your Louboutins. Recent research suggests that signaling high social status or wealth could make us less attractive to potential new friends.

In hypothetical social situations, participants were asked to choose between high and neutral status items to be associated with, and the majority of participants said, for example, that they would rather take a BMW than a Honda to a party where they hoped to make new friends. When participants evaluated which potential friends they'd rather approach at a party, however, most chose the Honda driver. "It's almost like there's an error in perspective, not realizing other people probably don't like to be outshone," says University of Michigan psychologist Stephen Garcia, a co-author of the study.

Of course, a particular coat or watch may seem fancy to some but not others, and we aren't always aware of the status signals we send. "People don't intend to sabotage their friendships with status cues," notes Yale psychologist Michael Kraus, who was not involved in the study. "And yet these cues leak out all the time."