The Denigration of Heroes: Why High-Status Actors are Typically Viewed as Inconsiderate and Inauthentic
We develop theory and report on experiments that address the tendency for high-status actors to be deemed—even by high-status actors themselves—less considerate and more inauthentic than low-status actors. We argue that this tendency, which potentially contradicts the fact that status is accorded on the basis of an actor’s capability and commitment, stems from two paradoxical features of typical status attainment processes: (a) The benefits of a high-status position typically carry an incentive to feign capability and commitment, thereby leading to suspicions of inauthenticity; and (b) Status is typically achieved through interaction patterns in which the high-status actor asserts its superiority and another’s inferiority, thereby leading to suspicions of inconsiderateness. Three experimental studies are designed to validate this theory and help rule out an alternative hypothesis, whereby the negative correlation between status and morality derives from a psychological need for viewing the world as just or fair–leading evaluators to compensate those who lack status with higher attributions of morality. Our studies, based on the “minimal group” paradigm, ask subjects to evaluate two arbitrary social categories based on members’ performance in a joint cognitive task. Implications are drawn regarding high-status insecurity and the sources of instability in status hierarchies.
As I do every year, I have been surveying some of the more interesting papers on the academic job market.