Feelings of Trust and High Status

A recent study, reported in Scientific American Mind, suggests that feelings of trust and high status are closely related. In the study, the subjects were primed to think of themselves as having either high or low status. Then, they were told that they could send $10 to an unseen partner;  the phantom partner would return as much as he wanted.  In the high-status group, 40 percent of the subjects sent the money; in the low-status group, only 12 percent did so.  As the researchers suggest, when people think of themselves as having high-status, they expect to be treated well and thus are more willing to trust others.  And trust is the linchpin in most negotiations.

Yet, there are many situations when it might be bad idea to prime people with high status. Studies also show that people primed with power are more confident in their thoughts and so are less likely to change their opinion. So if you have to convince someone to change his or her mind, priming them with high status is a bad idea.