Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Hierarchy, Dominance, and Deliberation: Egalitarian Values Require Mental Effort 

Laura Van Berkel et al. 
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, September 2015, Pages 1207-1222 

Abstract: Hierarchy and dominance are ubiquitous. Because social hierarchy is early learned and highly rehearsed, the value of hierarchy enjoys relative ease over competing egalitarian values. In six studies, we interfere with deliberate thinking and measure endorsement of hierarchy and egalitarianism. In Study 1, bar patrons’ blood alcohol content was correlated with hierarchy preference. In Study 2, cognitive load increased the authority/hierarchy moral foundation. In Study 3, low-effort thought instructions increased hierarchy endorsement and reduced equality endorsement. In Study 4, ego depletion increased hierarchy endorsement and caused a trend toward reduced equality endorsement. In Study 5, low-effort thought instructions increased endorsement of hierarchical attitudes among those with a sense of low personal power. In Study 6, participants thinking quickly allocated more resources to high-status groups. Across five operationalizations of impaired deliberative thought, hierarchy endorsement increased and egalitarianism receded. These data suggest hierarchy may persist in part because it has a psychological advantage. 

What I think is interesting about this is that markets have the same problem.  People's support for price gouging laws, for example, is based on an atavistic set of mental modules about sharing in a lifeboat, or in a cave.  It takes an effort, one most people just don't feel like making, to overcome the inertia of that immediate impulse to hate someone who is charging you for something you need.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

No comments: