Status-Regulating Emotions

by lsusr 2 min read3rd Jun 20208 comments


Elizer Yudkowsky wrote an interesting comment on What Universal Human Experiences Are You Missing Without Realizing It?

It was the gelling of the HPMOR hatedom which caused me to finally realize that I was blind, possibly I-don’t-have-that-sense blind, to the ordinary status-regulation emotions that, yes, in retrospect, many other people have, and that evolutionary psychology would logically lead us to expect exists.

…It was only afterward that I looked back and realized that nobody ever hates Hermione, or Harry, on account of either of them acting like they have more status than someone else has already mentally assigned. Characters in HPMOR may dislike people who are ahead of them, or envy people who have things they want, but “you don’t have a license to be important” is not a thing that anyone in HPMOR, hero or villain or NPC, ever feels.

For though I have known many a negative emotion in my life, yea I have known bitterness, frustration, despair, resentment, and a few times even envy and a sense that someone else has something that I deserve more, I have never felt the status-regulation-slapdown emotion. I needed to deduce its abstract existence via evolutionary psychology once HPMOR finally provoked enough data. I still have no idea what it feels like.

Are these a real thing? To find out, I asked my friend Justin Ith. Justin Ith is a master of social finesse. Asking him if status-regulation emotion is real is like asking Leonardo da Vinci if red and green are different colors.

Justin: "Are you asking if status-regulation emotion is a real thing people feel?"

Me: "Yes."

Justin: "If so, then absolutely yes."

Justin: "Lets say there are 9 followers and 1 leader in a group. If one of the followers started bossing the other followers around, it's frustrating because that person is acting out of their status."

Justin: "Even more clearly, lets say 9 soldiers and 1 general. If one of the soldiers starts commanding the others without any authority bestowed on them by the general, the other soldiers would react in a pissed way because they don't have to listen to them."

It bothers me when someone is disruptive. It bothers me when someone attempts to selfishly seize power. I can be jealous of people in positions of authority. But someone "acting above their station" has never bothered me. I barely comprehend the idea.

I to treat waiters and laborers with absolute courtesy. I give children with the same respect I give adults. On the other hand, I often unwittingly insult people in positions of authority over me.

I get along so badly with institutions that by age 15 I had written off compulsory school as an obstacle to my education. By 21 I concluded the same thing about college. By 22 I had taught myself computer programming but I was so impertinent[1] to potential employers I resorted to starting own tech company at age 24 because nobody would hire me.

My lack of status-regulation emotions damages me socially. It compensates me by reducing my self-censorship.

At first the default reaction of the Slashdot trolls was (translated into articulate terms): "Who is this guy and what authority does he have to write about these topics? I haven't read the essay, but there's no way anything so short and written in such an informal style could have anything useful to say about such and such topic, when people with degrees in the subject have already written many thick books about it." Now there's a new generation of trolls on a new generation of sites, but they have at least started to omit the initial "Who is this guy?"

Six Principles for Making New Things by Paul Graham

Perhaps most importantly, when I think about people like Albert Einstein, my next thought is "I could do that". Then I try to.

  1. I once got an interview at a startup by leaving on the CEO's desk a printed declaration of my intention to start a competing company. ↩︎