Status consciousness: individual differences in how people think about social status
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 22:09 authored by Beatrice Alba
Status hierarchies are widespread among animal species, and the contests for dominance among our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees, are well documented. In humans, status hierarchies are found throughout the world, across cultures and time. Despite the ubiquity of status hierarchies, there are nonetheless individual differences in attitudes towards hierarchy and status, and the extent to which people are motivated by status goals. The purpose of this thesis is to explore these individual differences in status-relevant attitudes, beliefs, and desires from an evolutionary perspective. A new measure called the "Status Consciousness Scale" was developed and validated in two studies. The scale has 40 items measuring eight facets of status consciousness: rejection of status, high-perceived status, respect for hierarchy, low-perceived status, status display, egalitarianism, belief in hierarchy, and enjoyment of status. This scale was administered alongside several existing measures relevant to status, including self-esteem, social dominance orientation, competitiveness, assertiveness, social comparison orientation, overt narcissism, and covert narcissism. The correlations with these measures supported the convergent validity of the Status Consciousness Scale. An additional two studies attempted to refine and develop two factors from the Status Consciousness Scale, with the intention to explore these constructs in detail in future studies. The rejection of status factor in the Status Consciousness Scale appeared to be the converse of the desire for status, which is argued to be a fundamental motive of importance in status relevant concerns. This study devised a scale measuring the desire for status, and also included a measure of perceived superiority. The resulting scale from this study included both these factors, with eight items in total. Correlations with striving to avoid inferiority, dominance, prestige, self-esteem, social dominance orientation, competitiveness, assertiveness, social comparison orientation, overt narcissism, and covert narcissism indicated that the Desire for Status Scale had good convergent validity. Lastly, a qualitative study was conducted to explore lay people's understanding of the meaning of the term "status". The findings revealed that status is a broad and multi-faceted construct that exists in various forms. This result supported our argument for a broad conceptualisation of the term "status", and implications for the validity of our scale and the definition of status in the literature are discussed.