Research Archive

It's Good to Be the King: Neurobiological Benefits of Higher Social Standing

Modupe Akinola, Wendy Berry Mendes

Publication type: Journal article

Research Archive Topic: Leadership, Organizations


Epidemiological and animal studies often find that higher social status is associated with better physical health outcomes, but these findings are by design correlational and lack mediational explanations. In two studies, we examine neurobiological reactivity to test the hypothesis that higher social status leads to salutary short-term psychological, physiological, and behavioral responses. In Study 1, we measured police officers' subjective social status and had them engage in a stressful task during which we measured cardiovascular and neuroendocrine reactivity. In Study 2, we manipulated social status and examined physiological reactivity and performance outcomes to explore links among status, performance, and physiological reactivity. Results indicated that higher social status (whether measured or manipulated) was associated with approach-oriented physiology (Studies 1 and 2) and better performance (Study 2) relative to lower status. These findings point to acute reactivity as one possible causal mechanism to better physical health among those higher in social status.
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Akinola, Modupe, and Wendy Mendes. "It's Good to Be the King: Neurobiological Benefits of Higher Social Standing." Social Psychology and Personality Science (forthcoming).

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