A Privilege or a Responsibility? Different Meanings of Status Determine How It Is Enacted 

Morton, T. A. (University of Copenhagen) 

Experimental research suggests that individuals with higher status are likely to be less prosocial, more narcissistic, and behave less ethically than their low status counterparts, thereby contributing to social inequalities. Large-scale population data, however, does not always agree with this picture, and have revealed a variety of relationships between indicators of status and prosociality, including neutral and positive relationships. The aim of this research was to begin reconciling these discrepancies by considering the different meanings attached to status and how these might guide status-related behavior. In two experimental studies (Ns = 75 & 91), I manipulated whether status is framed in terms of privileges versus responsibilities to others. Across studies, relationships between higher status and more entitled or self-serving behaviour were only apparent when status was construed in terms of privilege. When status was instead construed as responsibility, higher status individuals acted with restraint and in ways that preserve collective resources. I conclude that having higher status is not itself the source of socially problematic actions. Instead socially problematic thoughts and behaviors arise from status when the privileges of status are not offset by awareness of countervailing responsibilities. 

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Norms, Stereotyping, and Social Identity