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PSYB10H3 Lecture Notes - Bonobo, Social Dominance Orientation

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Ingrid L.Stefanovic

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Lecture 18: Social power and Hierarchy
x Definitions: Hierarchy, Power, Status
x Development of Hierarchy
x Function of hierarchy
x Self reinforcing nature of hierarchy
x Hierarchy instability
Social Hierarchy
An implicit or explicit rank order of individuals or groups with respect to a valued social
x Power hierarchies and status hierarchies are subtypes of social hierarchies
x Implicit vs. Explicit rank order: we may be very clear about who is of higher status than
us, or conversely, we might not know definitely that somebody is higher in rank, however
we know it on an associative, implicit level (you can sometimes just sense that somebody
is of higher status than you)
x Rank order: in order for something to be a hierarchy, there must at least be 2 levels of
status and power that are above and below each other.
x Valued social dimension: the criteria that is used to rank people within social hierarchies.
People are ranked according to what matters to the group that is doing the ranking
o In high school, the person with the coolest clothes may be of higher status, with
cool clothes being the valued social dimension
o In an engineering firm, the valued social dimension would instead be intelligence
and creativity, and this will be how people are ranked.
Social power
An asymmetric control over valued resources in social relations
x Based on resources, which belong to an actor/social object
o Can be money for humans
o food in animals
o supplies in a business organization
x the person who has power is the person who decides how to allocate these resources
o there could be shades of grey, where the president of a company controls the most
resources, with the manager controlling some, giving each step of the hierarchy

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power over the next, but where the people controlling the MOST resources still
have the most power
Power hierarchy
Rank ordering of individuals with respect to the amount of resources that each controls.
x One type of social hierarchy
x More typically seen in formal hierarchies, but it can work at a national level.
x Socioeconomic power (income level) reflects your amount of social power
Social status
The extent to which an individual or group is admired or respected by others
x Exists entirely in the eyes of others and is conferred by them
o You cannot create your own status, other people chose what your status is
x This is about interpersonal variables, and therefore is quite different from social power
Status Hierarchy
A rank ordering of individuals or groups according to the amount of respect accorded by others
x Changes only as the amount of respect for a target changes
o Power hierarchies will change as your resources and control over resources
changes, but status hierarchies will change if nobody likes you anymore, it has
nothing to do with resources
o For example, recently in the news a very well known and well respected hockey
coach was found to have molested many of his young players. Even though his
expertise and abilities have not changed, his status has plummeted because people
have lost respect for him.
x Another type of social hierarchy
x More commonly seen in informal hierarchies
o Friend groups, for example
Types of social hierarchies
x Informal social hierarchy
x Formal social hierarchy
Formal hierarchy
Explicitly-set social roles that vary by rank order, with higher-ranking roles holding greater

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Best example is a company, with a CEO, VP, Department heads, managers, project directors and
employees, secretaries, janitors, etc ± everybody knows what roles are higher ranking than
x There is a very clearly defined set of roles, and the ranks of those roles are clearly defined
x People move between roles, but the hierarchy exists apart from the individuals who fill a
given role at a given time
o If an individual moves up in the hierarchy, they also move up in rank, the roles
are what denote rank, who holds these roles does not matter.
x Signs of a formal hierarchy
o Job titles
o Reporting structures
Who do you report to? The person you report to is higher in status
o Organizational charts
Explicitly denote the hierarchy of social roles
x Sources of value in higher-ranked positions:
o Control over resources (power)
o Deference from subordinates (status)
For example, one would be less likely to insult somebody higher up
x Typically an assumption of legitimacy to the hierarchy exists
o Not the case all the time with informal hierarchies
o People assume that higher up individuals have earned their role, having to move
up the ladder to get there
Informal Hierarchies
Rank-ordering of individuals or groups that develops organically on at least one valued social
x Organically: in an informal hierarchy there are not clear roles or clear ranks, but the
hierarchy still exists - a hierarchy naturally develops even though people may technically
o For example, in high school everyone is a student, but a hierarchy is still created.
x no clearly-delineated social roles
x sources of value in higher-ranked positions:
o influence over group decisions (power)
less about money and resources, like in a formal hierarchy
o great attention from others (status)
Attention is our social currency in informal hierarchies. You can tell who
is higher status based on the amount of attention they get from others
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