Stanford Psychology Podcast
Stanford Psychology Podcast
66 - Shai Davidai: Pursuing Status in a Zero-Sum World

66 - Shai Davidai: Pursuing Status in a Zero-Sum World

Eric chats with Shai Davidai, Assistant Professor in the Management Division of Columbia Business School. His research examines people’s everyday judgments of themselves, other people, and society as a whole. He studies perceptions of inequality and competitive, zero-sum beliefs about the world. Shai received his PhD from Cornell under Tom Gilovich’s supervision. His work has been published in various top-tier journals.

In this episode, Eric and Shai discuss how people pursue status. When do people seek status through dominant aggressive bullying and when do they receive it due to their competence and a good character? Shai’s work reveals the role of zero-sum beliefs: people who believe one person’s gain is another’s loss choose more dominant strategies to gain status. Is this an adaptive response? Can such zero-sum perceptions be inaccurate and, even worse, self-fulfilling? What’s the way out of competitive zero-sum cultures? Shai shares how he stays optimistic despite such depressing research interests, discusses being an international scholar living in the US, and gives advice to his younger grad student self. He finally poses a puzzle for the listener: would you rather be extremely smart or extremely kind?

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