Is Deference the Price of Being Seen as Reasonable? How Status Hierarchies Incentivize Acceptance of Low Status
Author(s): Cecilia L. Ridgeway, Sandra Nakagawa
Abstract: High-status members are incentivized to contribute to a group’s collective endeavors by the deference and influence they receive. But what incentives do groups offer low-status members for their continued participation and deference to high-status others? We develop and test a theoretical account of how the implicit cultural rules for status hierarchies create a modest incentive system for deference to those deemed more valuable to the collective effort. Such deference endorses the group’s shared expectations for what is perceived to be validly better. The group responds by granting the deferrer a modicum of respect: the dignity of being seen as reasonable. This respect reaction acts as an incentive system that tempts the low-status person to stay involved in the group’s endeavor despite being less valued. Three experiments confirm that low-status members anticipate receiving and higher-status members offer such reactions of respect and reasonableness for low-status deference, and these reactions increase low-status members’ commitment to the group. A fourth study with a nationally representative sample supports the robustness of these findings.
Publication Title: Social Psychology Quarterly, Vol. 80(2)
Pub Year: 2017
Pages: 132 – 152
URL: https://doi.org/10.1177/0190272517695213
Keywords: status, deference, interpersonal hierarchies, respect, groups

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