Slipping down the ladder: the individual and social consequences of status loss

Carson Marr, Jennifer (2012) Slipping down the ladder: the individual and social consequences of status loss. Doctoral thesis, University of London: London Business School. OPEN ACCESS


In my dissertation I examine people's reactions to an understudied phenomenon, status loss. I suggest that status loss is a challenging experience to overcome and thus, it is likely to diminish some people's willpower (i.e., self-regulation) immediately afterwards. Accordingly, I question who in the hierarchy will be able to overcome status loss and self-regulate most effectively immediately afterwards. I suggest that when high status individuals lose status, they experience the event as more threatening, depleting their regulatory resources and impairing their ability to regulate themselves (i.e., self-regulation impairment) on subsequent tasks more than low status individuals. Two vignette and two experimental studies supported this prediction and revealed that relative to low status individuals, high status individuals had a greater need to affirm their self (Study 1), persisted less on tasks (Studies 2 and 3), and were less willing to persist in order to regain their status (Study 4), following status loss. However, self-affirmation restored high status individuals' persistence to complete a task and their willingness to persist to regain their status (Study 4). The persistence of high status individuals has clear implications for their performance, but I suggest that self-regulation also has a social function. I argue that when high status individuals exhibit effective self-regulation in the aftermath of status loss, they send a reliable signal that they are legitimate, protecting their high standing in the social order. Three experiments revealed that because self-regulation is diagnostic of legitimate status (Study 5), when high status individuals demonstrate effective self-regulation after status loss, it protects perceptions that they are legitimate (Study 6) and perpetuates the behavioural support that legitimises their high status position (Study 7). However, when high status individuals demonstrate self-regulation impairment after status loss, social audiences will doubt their legitimacy (Study 6) and behave in ways that challenge their high status position (Study 7). The main contributions of this work are 1) investigating the individual and social consequences of an understudied phenomenon, status loss, 2) challenging traditional models of status which suggest that more status is equated with more resources and therefore better life outcomes, 3) looking beyond the individual consequences of self-regulation impairment and investigating the social consequences of self-regulation impairment for high status individuals, and 4) highlighting the central role of self-regulation in status conferral processes. The findings of my thesis suggest that ironically, those who value their status in the hierarchy most (high status individuals) will experience more self-regulation impairment after status loss than those who value their status least (low status individuals), thwarting their ability to regain status in the group. The theoretical and practical implications of this research are discussed.

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Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subject Areas: Organisational Behaviour
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2022 16:30
Date of first compliant deposit: 10 Feb 2022
Subjects: People (Behavioural science)
Last Modified: 07 Aug 2022 06:12

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