It’s a well-worn trope in movies and television: to get friends, and to find true love, you have to get really rich, and then buy a lot of stuff to show how rich you are. Or buy the stuff without the money and go into debt. Either way, showing off your fancy things gets you friends.
But a new study suggests that might be completely false. Rather than attracting people, status symbols like designer purses, expensive watches and Ferraris actually turn people off of you.
The research, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, did a series of six studies to examine how luxury goods impacted relationships. Participants either presented themselves as potential friends, or evaluated people in a group. The people who were hoping to be picked as a new friend tended to choose higher status items, presumably to show that they were really cool. However, when participants had to pick friends, they were more likely to pick people sporting neutral or lower status items.
"At a societal level, we may be wasting billions of dollars on expensive status symbols that ultimately keep others from wanting to associate with us," says Kimberlee Weaver Livnat, one of the study’s authors. "And to the extent that close friendships are important to well-being, we may be inadvertently hurting ourselves."
They also found that it didn’t really matter what the actual socioeconomic status of the participants was. The results were largely the same despite their class background.
The next step is to figure out why there is such a paradox, the researchers say. They want to learn why so many people think that Rolex watches will help them get new friends, while it’s not really true. And maybe that's why they always say it's lonely at the top.