CM 084: Mitch Prinstein on How Popularity Shapes Our Lives

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Blog Post - Mitch and PopularWhy are high-school memories of popularity so strong? Because they still shape our lives today.

Mitch Prinstein, author of the book, Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-obsessed World and Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explains how teen popularity impacts adult happiness, our health, and our relationships. And surprisingly, not just for unpopular, but for popular people, too.

And, according to Mitch, if you thought there was only one kind of popularity — the high status kind — then you are seeing only half the picture. There is actually another kind — one based on likability — that plays a key role in our lives. In fact, understanding what sets these two kinds of popularity apart — for ourselves and our organizations — can mean the difference between being a mediocre and an outstanding leader.

In this interview we discuss:

  • The connection between adolescent brain development and our desire for popularity
  • How memories of our popularity as teens stays with us in adulthood, for better or worse
  • The difference between likability and high-status popularity and why it matters
  • How and why high-status teens can suffer from relationship, mental health, and addiction problems as adults
  • How bosses who bully may have achieved high-status popularity as teens
  • The ill health effects low likeability, low status teens experience as adults
  • How our bodies are attuned to our experience with popularity as teens
  • Why likeability and kindness trumps high status when it comes to popularity
  • How our brains get a signal for social pain when we perceive we are excluded or unpopular
  • How perceived unpopularity can trigger in our bodies an unhealthy inflammation response
  • How the more sensitive we are to physical pain the more sensitive we can be to social pain and rejection
  • How likeable people tend to hang back and observe before talking
  • How likeable people say things like: I wonder if . . . , rather than: We should . . .
  • The fact that our memories of popularity from our teenage years influence how we see the world, including what we attribute actions of others to
  • When someone stands you up or shows up late, do you blame yourself or blame them?
  • Our popularity when we were younger influences how we view popularity for our children
  • Anxious and insecure mothers often have popular children because they pay attention to how their children interact with peers and tend to coach their children in proactive ways
  • How parents can help their children to achieve likeable popularity by modeling what it looks like and scaffolding support through young adulthood
  • How our likability as young people has a greater influence than many other factors when it comes to our health and well-being as adults
  • How the kind of popularity we associate with social media, like likes,is not the kind of popularity that serves us well as social human beings
  • How the extent to which others like something online can lead us to engage in more risky behavior
  • How the ways we interact with social media are changing what we value and care about
  • Why the more we connect online for status, the lonelier and more isolated we can feel

Links to Topics Mentioned in this Podcast


Naomi Eisenberger

Take Pride by Jessica Tracy

Martha Putallaz

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