When you are new to the office and looking to make friends, don’t be flashing off your Louie Vuittons, BMWs, and Tag Heuers. A new study in Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests that status symbols of wealth can be a major turnoff for people seeking friends.
“Often times we think that status symbols – whether a luxury car like a BMW, a brand name purse like Prada, or an expensive watch like Rolex – will make us look more socially attractive to others,” Stephen Garcia, one of the authors of the study, said. “However, our research suggests that these status signals actually make us look less socially attractive, not more.”
Flashy status symbols backfire on us
This turnoff is news to us, though. We are more likely to think that a few Prada bags can lead the way to our friends’ hearts. Across a series of experiments, participants in the study thought that showing high-status markers of themselves would help them make new friends. In their quest for friendship, they chose luxury cars over basic ones, wearing Tag Heuer watches over no-name brands, and wearing “Saks Fifth Avenue” shirts over “Walmart” ones.
But when participants were asked which groups of people they would choose to be friends with, they consistently went with people who displayed lower-status markers. They said they would rather get to know people in a 2012 VW Golf car and a Columbia brand winter coat over people with a hot BMW car and a Canada Goose winter coat.
We recognize that status is signaled through the clothes we wear, the cars we drive and the purses we tote along. It can be useful to flash designer handbags and tailored suits if we need to look fancy to a contact. But what we do not seem to recognize as well is that these same status markers can undermine our friendship goals.
“Status signaling has its obvious benefits,” the researchers conclude. “But in the context of social affiliation, this same psychological process of social comparison can also make these actions backfire.”
First impressions are all about what we see on the surface. For friendship seekers, it helps to make sure the look you give off to your aspiring BFF is the same you would want to receive.