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The longer someone ignores an email before finally responding, the more relative social power that person has

The longer someone ignores an email before finally responding, the more relative social power that person has The longer someone ignores an email before finally responding, the more relative social power that person has
Source: Malika Favre Digital Art via Pinterest
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People of lower social status tend to do better on tests of empathic accuracy, such as reading others' emotions from their faces—even just from muscle movements around the eyes. By every measure they focus on other people more than do people of higher status.

The mapping of attention on lines of power shows up in a simple metric: how long does it take person A to respond to an email from person B? The longer someone ignores an email before finally responding, the more relative social power that person has. Map these response times across an entire organization and you get a remarkably accurate chart of the actual social standing. The boss leaves emails unanswered for hours or days; those lower down respond within minutes. There's an algorithm for this, a data mining method called "automated social hierarchy detection," developed at Columbia University. When applied to the archive of email traffic at Enron Corporation before it folded, the method correctly identified the roles of top-level managers and their subordinates just by how long it took them to answer a given person's emails. Intelligence agencies have been applying the same metric to suspected terrorist gangs, piecing together the chain of influence to spot the central figures.

Power and status are highly relative, varying from one encounter to another. Tellingly, when students from wealthy families imagined themselves talking with someone of still higher status than themselves, they improved on their ability to read emotions in faces. Where we see ourselves on the social ladder seems to determine how much attention we pay: more vigilant when we feel subordinate, less so when superior. The corollary: The more you care about someone, the more attention you pay—and the more attention you pay, the more you care. Attention interweaves with love.

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