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Status as a valued resource

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While the striving for status has long been recognized in animals and in humans, there is ambiguity about the role that status plays among people in terms of their utility calculations and social interactions. The authors present results of a rent seeking experiment with human subjects which show that people regard status as a valued resource in itself, rather than a means to an end. Participants in the experiment played a two-stage game in which they tried to win a risky all-or-none rent. An analysis of the data established that the subjects valued status independently of any monetary consequence and were willing to trade-off some material gain in order to obtainn it. Moreover, the amount of status seeking observed was different among men and women. These results help explain departures from the Nash equilibrium predicted by economic theory observed in other rent seeking experiments, and provide a natural explanation for the existence of positional goods.

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