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I apologize if this is a "dumb question", but I would really like someone to respond to this question.

Why is reputation so important to people?

I believe that some people answer questions and ask questions just for the reputation. This is related to the FGITW problem (that is Fastest Gun In The West for those who do not know. Search it up on http://meta.stackoverflow.com). Sure, reputation on the site gets you privileges and the like, but why do so many people go for reputation? Does rep make you feel good or something?

Personally, I see reputation as simply a number on the top of my screen. Yeah, $1338$ rep, so what? I would probably feel the same if I had $10$K reputation. But some people are so giddy with delight when they earn the slightest bit of reputation. Perhaps people think that one day, they will get a lot of rep and essentially become "famous" (like Andre, robjohn, etc).

Does anyone have any ideas why people care about reputation so much?

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    $\begingroup$ You wrote: that is Fastest Gun In The West for those who do not know. Search it up on meta.SO. I'll add the link to the tag-wiki for the fastest-gun tag, where some basic pointers can be found. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Mar 20 '14 at 7:27
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    $\begingroup$ Some similar older discussions (I am sure that a lot more could be found): meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/7116/… and meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/12400/why-reputation $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Mar 20 '14 at 7:31
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    $\begingroup$ My guess is that someone with a background in psychology could answer this better than people whose background is only in mathematics. I suspect the entire reputation system is designed to support psychological reward impulses, in a way similar to slot machines and Candy Crush. In other words, people may not be consciously aware of why reputation matters to them. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Mar 20 '14 at 13:27
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    $\begingroup$ Although they are just points, it is not weird not people care. As it is also a way to know that your contribution are appreciated, and you are indeed helping people to learn and that you have a good impact in a community. $\endgroup$ – clark Mar 20 '14 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ @clark has a good point. Beyond the privileges I deem important, I don't care about the number, but I do care about the number going up, because it means my contributions are appreciated. For some reason I like that. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Mar 20 '14 at 18:25
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    $\begingroup$ If you would have said $1337$ rep., that would mean something. $\endgroup$ – Git Gud Mar 20 '14 at 22:32
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    $\begingroup$ @GitGud Should have downvoted someone's answer haha $\endgroup$ – TrueDefault Mar 21 '14 at 0:23
  • $\begingroup$ I for one, am NUTS about reputation. The way I see it, reputation is a sign of status. I see it as a way of sorting out the professionals from the year eight's. I only have 100 rep right now, and I'm okay with that. But I do see the addiction of rep. $\endgroup$ – Joao Mar 24 '14 at 0:57
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    $\begingroup$ it makes people feel like they exists $\endgroup$ – Muhammad Umer Mar 24 '14 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ 'You did a good job JChau, and you asked a very good question!' Don't you like hearing this? Especially if it is well-meant off course. Be honest. If your answer is 'no' then I think you are an exception. Seeing a green $10$ or $15$ has a sortlike effect on me. $\endgroup$ – drhab Mar 24 '14 at 20:56
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    $\begingroup$ A serial downvote is a good test. If it makes me mad then I am definitely on the wrong track. I am not completely free of ‘disliking it’, but it is always narrowly followed by an awareness of – let’s say – my ‘weak flesh’. If it happens then I think things as: ‘probably I needed this again as encouragement to stay on (or go back to) the right track’. My motivation must be to help students by means of the talents that were given unto me and reputation on its own should not be a part of it. $\endgroup$ – drhab Mar 25 '14 at 10:03
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    $\begingroup$ @copper.hat If so then for me it is beyond doubt that you are quite happy. $\endgroup$ – drhab Mar 26 '14 at 12:39
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexBecker Dear Moderator Alex Becker, I have no idea why you deleted my answer. Could you please explain? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Mar 26 '14 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato Because it was not an answer to this question, but rather yet another one of your posts about how you believe the community has been unfairly persecuting your questions. $\endgroup$ – Alex Becker Mar 27 '14 at 3:50
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    $\begingroup$ My wife studied fitness training. Assigning otherwise meaningless points to the completion of exercises is a basic technique, but she was warned that some people will unwisely risk serious injury solely to gain a few more points, even when those points are associated with neither a reward nor a meaningful comparison against others. You therefore have to design your point system very carefully to ensure that it encourages good behaviours without leading to injury for those people. The daily rep cap is such a mechanism. Why some humans are like this, I don't know. $\endgroup$ – Eric Lippert Mar 29 '14 at 16:54
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Up to 20k there are moderation privileges gained from earning reputation. After that, it's mostly bragging rights.

You can also spend reputation at any point to put a bounty on questions you'd like to see answers to (whether they be yours or others). This is mostly what I choose to do with my surplus rep now that I have all the privileges.

But, gamification aside, many people get excited about single increases in reputation because it means someone has read (and approved of) something they wrote. This means the time they spent writing it hasn't gone to waste. It's nice knowing people like your work.

(and of course, there's also an addictive quality to it.)

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    $\begingroup$ I sense you are lying. "Surplus rep now that I have all the privileges"?? You are a MODERATOR!! +1 for the answer though $\endgroup$ – Guy Mar 20 '14 at 13:21
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    $\begingroup$ The other thing that users with high rep can do, once they have "won the game" (and I would view myself in that list, for better or worse...) is: sit back, let lower-rep users answer the easy questions, and try to focus on the more difficult and interesting ones. Nobody wants to be that fast kid on the team who runs all they way across the field to receive a pass that one of the younger players was already in position to take. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Mar 20 '14 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ Newer uses also tend to trust answers for users with high rep more $\endgroup$ – Mathman Mar 24 '14 at 12:10
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    $\begingroup$ Up to 35k one gets an extra daily delete vote for every 1k. $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Jun 13 '15 at 1:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Jonas: And at one diamond one gets $\aleph_1$ extra daily deletion and closure votes. :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jun 13 '15 at 7:09
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Imagine playing a (video) game where there was no reward for achievement, where there were no consequences for stupid...how long would such a game hold your interest? How many people do you think would play a second time? Think: reputation == health. reputation == gold coins in my bag.

Reputation points are the currency in this economy.

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    $\begingroup$ It is curious that this answer is downvoted since such gamification is an essential component of the SE model. Meta observation quickly shows that it plays a major role in motivating contributions of many (but not all) users - precisely as it was designed to do. But sci.math prospered in its heydey without gamification, so it's not necessary (and it has many bad side effects - interacting with ego as it does). $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Mar 26 '14 at 3:09
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    $\begingroup$ I think the comparison is flawed. Reputation points on SE are more comparable to achievements in video games. Before those became a thing, the motivation for playing a game was purely intrinsic, i.e. people were motivated solely by the fact that they wanted to beat the game, enjoyed the gameplay, etc. whereas achievemtns are clearly an extrinsic motivation. The intrinsic motivation for posting on MSE is just solving problems, helping people, etc.. whereas I'd consider reputation extrinsic. $\endgroup$ – roman Mar 26 '14 at 12:41
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    $\begingroup$ @roman The fact that one can "spend" reputation points (for a bounty) suggested the analogy to currency. In my mind, badges here are more analogous to achievements in video games. $\endgroup$ – Brad S. Mar 26 '14 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque I too am curious. I wonder about the reasons behind the down votes. It seem like comments would have been more useful/illuminating. I admit that the post was made somewhat extemporaneously... $\endgroup$ – Brad S. Mar 26 '14 at 17:48
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One reason I like reputation:

Reputation is a digital (and numeric!) substitute for feedback of appreciation or agreement. A lot of the people here have backgrounds in math education. Recall, for a moment, what it's like to tutor or teach someone, or help a classmate with a problem.

When you help someone, and they respond with "YES! I get it now," that gives you the feedback that the way that you described the problem worked. (That could be like an "accepted answer.") If the person sitting next to you, half-listening in, says "Ohh... that's a pretty good explanation" (like someone upvoting you), that also gives you confirmation/feedback that you have a good description.

I like to help people. I like it even better to know that the help that I'm providing is appreciated or understood by someone. Seeing my reputation go up tells me that "Hm! Somebody evidently liked that explanation."


Another reason I like reputation:

On a site with so many members, it would be easy to get lost in the crowd. Reputation is almost like a "participation" meter. If I see a $6$ rep user, I know that they're fairly new and that I probably don't know them already. If I see a $6\text{k}$ rep user, then I probably know who they are.

It also lets me know upon walking into a new site who the "movers"/"shakers" are, and who holds the most sway in a discussion. (Like it or not, people tend to follow those who have a lot of rep. This is especially obvious on a site like EE.SE.)


And, one last thing:

It's just fun to see some kind of number (that is, more or less, tied to what I do) go up. Significant or not, it makes me happy to see a progress bar going upwards from left to right. :)

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One of the primary drives of human beings is the need to stand out, be significant, and to feel special.

There are mainly two reasons why reputation would make someone feel more significant:

Evolution
1)We are evolutionarily designed to seek the approval of others.Therefore, reputation is a fulfillment of our impulse to get approval from others and as a result temporarily inflate ourselves to feel more significant.

Psychology
2) Getting reputation validates your beliefs about yourself. We all have beliefs about ourselves and we are constantly unconsciously trying to find references in our environment to support those beliefs. We form beliefs that are congruent with our identities.

Example: If someone believes they are intelligent, and they get reputation, then that would validate the belief that they are intelligent and therefore and make them feel more fully themselves in a sense.

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    $\begingroup$ Example $2\!:\,$ someone believes that they are more mathematically intelligent than they are, answers mostly easy questions (e.g. calculus), gets more rep than many experts, so believes more strongly in their intelligence, and with that newfound confidence, starts posting poor answers on topics at the frontier of their knowledge level. One of many major flaws in the SE model. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Mar 27 '14 at 2:39
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    $\begingroup$ Correct. Although, on the contrary the bolstering of confidence may also make someone be inspired to spend more time in the area of math than they would ordinarily, thereby they take more action and learn more, and get up to a high level of skill quicker. This is how momentum cycles work. Or as they say, 'how the rich get richer'. $\endgroup$ – chopper draw lion4 Mar 30 '14 at 17:46
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque Luckily psychology also provides us with an armada of BS-callers to help smooth out misinformation. I would say that the most insidious danger comes not from answers are blatently wrong, but rather from mediocre answers (often copied from the other side of the internet at the cost of quality). These are the harder to screen for. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Gruber Apr 1 '14 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque As much as I agree with your point of people providing incorrect answers (I myself fell into that once, you corrected me if you remember) for those who actually want to learn, the incorrect answer helps the one who answered incorrectly in the first place. Due to the support of the community as a whole, this isn't really that big a flaw in the SE model. Also, answers can just be downvoted, reputation can make and break your beliefs. $\endgroup$ – Guy Apr 2 '14 at 5:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: Last I remember you were saying that you intend to leave the site and develop a proper model for a mathematical Q&A. What happened with that? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 5 '14 at 23:35
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Because you need rep to be able to use the frickin' website!

The reason it is important to me is that I can't comment on other people's questions yet, which is really annoying. I have 49 rep, and I even made a question to get up to 50, and it got a bunch of unexplained downvotes, and actually made my rep worse.

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    $\begingroup$ . . . I suppose it worked out, in the long run. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Nov 26 '14 at 23:22
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Correlation is not causation.

Upvoted answers get sorted to the top in the default view of sorting by votes. Thus, if you want future readers to read your answer, it helps a lot for it to be the most upvoted answer.

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