Monday, February 02, 2015

Low social status enhances prosocial orientation.

Interesting observations from Guinote et al. :
Humans are a cooperative species, capable of altruism and the creation of shared norms that ensure fairness in society. However, individuals with different educational, cultural, economic, or ethnic backgrounds differ in their levels of social investment and endorsement of egalitarian values. We present four experiments showing that subtle cues to social status (i.e., prestige and reputation in the eyes of others) modulate prosocial orientation. The experiments found that individuals who experienced low status showed more communal and prosocial behavior, and endorsed more egalitarian life goals and values compared with those who experienced high status. Behavioral differences across high- and low-status positions appeared early in human ontogeny (4–5 y of age).
This is yet another study using undergraduate college students as subjects. The first experiment manipulated perceived status by telling students their department had high versus low national rankings. After this simple intervention, lower status students showed more helpful behavior when an experimenter pretended to drop a pack of pens on the floor. A second experiment gave a group bogus feedback about their group standing compared with another group. Individuals in low status groups showed more communal and prosocial signaling during self-presentations and interactions than those in high status groups. The third experiment had a status manipulation similar to the first, and the life goals of low versus high status subjects were probed, the finding being that lower lower status participants indicated more benevolent self-transcendent life goals while higher-status participants endorsed more power values. The fourth study was done with a group of 28 children of mean age 4.7 years. After manipulations of their dominance hierarchy, lower status children were more generous and helpful than higher status peers.

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