Consistent with the motives to achieve social status and inclusion being fundamental, higher levels of both, actual and perceived, have been linked with better psychological health. This study (N = 680) sought to extend understanding of such links by examining how individual differences in aspirations for status and inclusion correlated with psychological health (higher trait self-esteem, lower trait anxiety). Whereas perceptions of higher status and inclusion showed a positive link to psychological health, higher aspirations for status and inclusion showed a negative link. The former and latter pairs of links persisted after controlling for one another, and no evidence emerged of moderation. It is beneficial to perceive one's status and inclusion as high, but not to aspire for them to be, regardless of how such perceptions and aspirations interrelate.
Recent theorizing defines social status as the extent to which an individual is respected, admired, and deemed important (Fiske, 2010). The desire to achieve status, so defined, is a fundamental human motive, serving evolutionary functions (Anderson, Hildreth, & Howland, 2015). In keeping with this view, people engage in a variety of goaloriented behaviors to attain and maintain status (Anderson & Kilduff, 2009), which in turn offers a range of psychological benefits. For example, higher-status people are more satisfied with their lives (Anderson, Kraus, Galinsky, & Keltner, 2012), and suffer less anxiety and depression (Mahadevan, Gregg, Sedikides, & De Waal-Andrews, 2016). In contrast, lower-status people also have lower self-esteem (Fournier, 2009), and are more likely to feel insecure and threatened by others (Gregg, Mahadevan, & Sedikides, 2018). Another fundamental human motive is the desire to achieve inclusion, also termed the need to belong (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Social inclusion, the extent to which an individual is liked, accepted, and fits in well with others (Anderson et al., 2015), is also a state of affairs that people strive to maintain (Maner, DeWall, Baumeister, & Schaller, 2007). Like higher status, greater inclusion offers several psychological benefits. For example, socially included people enjoy higher self-esteem (Mahadevan, Gregg, & Sedikides, 2018) and feel more in control of their lives (Zadro, Williams, & Richardson, 2004). In contrast, socially excluded people experience more anger (Riva, Romero Lauro, DeWall, Chester, & Bushman, 2015), and perceive life as less meaningful (Stillman et al., 2009). Although status and inclusion are positively correlated, they remain conceptually and empirically distinct (Anderson et al., 2015; Mahadevan et al., 2018). Status is agentic in character and involves striving to get ahead, whereas inclusion is communal in character and involves striving to get along (Abele & Wojciszke, 2018; Gregg, Mahadevan, & Sedikides, 2017). Consistent with status and inclusion being non-redundant, they each relate independently to psychological health. Higher status and greater inclusion predict higher self-esteem after controlling for the other, correlationally (Huo, Binning, & Molina, 2010) and experimentally (Mahadevan et al., 2018). Both also independently correlate with positive and negative affect (Anderson et al., 2012) and symptoms of anxiety and depression (Mahadevan et al., 2016).