Most people choose status.
They’d rather be the big fish in a small pond making $50,000 a year than the small fish in a big pond earning $100,000.
A few years ago, a study was conducted in which participants were presented with pairs of hypothetical personal circumstances and asked to state their preferences. For example, people were asked to choose between earning $50,000 a year with others earning $25,000 and earning $100,000 a year with others earning $200,000. They were asked to choose between 12 years of education (high school) when others have 8, and 16 years of education (college) when others have 20. They were asked to choose between an IQ of 110 when the IQ of others is 90 and an IQ of 130 when the IQ of others is 150. In most cases, more than half of the respondents chose the options that gave them better relative position. Better to be a big fish, earning $50,000, in a small pond than a small fish, earning $100,000, in a big one.
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