Are we more satisfied with our social status when accompanied by an entourage?

It’s probably fair to say that we all enjoy free perks and being part of special events that make us feel like a VIP. But research from Brent McFerran at the University of Michigan and Jennifer Argo at the University of Alberta suggests that our level of satisfaction goes up significantly if we can feel […]

It’s probably fair to say that we all enjoy free perks and being part of special events that make us feel like a VIP. But research from Brent McFerran at the University of Michigan and Jennifer Argo at the University of Alberta suggests that our level of satisfaction goes up significantly if we can feel like a VIP while in the company of an entourage.

NPR’s Shankar Vedantam spoke with Morning Edition host David Greene about the psychological phenomenon. There are two reasons for what the authors refer to as the “entourage effect” that Vedantam seems to think provide explanation:

It could be an ego-based concept that refers to the fact that if you are surrounded by your friends at an event that you personally were invited to or are responsible for attending (like if you got exclusive tickets to a show and picked people to bring – i.e. you are the VIP), you might feel particularly important or influential.

Another explanation could just be that people enjoy going out and attending events with the company of friends simply because they like including people they care about it and it’s more fun.

McFerran and Argo disagree with the latter, more innocent explanation, though:

“Importantly, we show that the entourage effect arises due to a heighted feeling of social connection that the VIP experiences. We also demonstrate that the entourage effect does not appear to arise due to an aversion to being alone, enhanced public visibility, the mere ability to confer resources on others, sharing, or perceived indebtedness.”

The authors also point out that the VIP’s satisfaction is diminished if members of the entourage are not in close physical proximity to the VIP, if the treatment at an event or occasion isn’t preferential and if members of the entourage are VIPs in their own right.

Pretty plain and simple – we all just want to feel special.

[Photo from Flickr user Jordan Lewin]