Decades of social networks and social capital literature have centered on how connections with people in high places provide critical information and resources that benefit the focal individual’s success. Complementing this focus on tangible benefits, in this stream of research, I investigate some social costs of having advantageous network connections, as well as their implications for societal inequality. My research on status acuity also closely connects to social networks—individuals’ perceptual accuracy of social hierarchies in groups shapes the networks that individuals build—namely, the extent to which they connect with those who truly hold high status. In turn, because these high-status network ties facilitate learning and knowledge transmission and give the focal individuals indirect influence, individuals with more accurate status perceptions perform at a higher level in various settings.
In this stream of research, at the individual level, I illuminate important aspects of the psychology of social hierarchy by integrating this research with research on basic psychological needs and the psychology of the self. In particular, I leverage this approach to increase understanding of the two distinct fundamental dimensions of hierarchy—status (i.e., the respect and admiration that an individual has in the eyes of others) and power (i.e., asymmetric control over valued resources). I argue that a key difference between status and power lies in the basic needs that each fulfills. Specifically, whereas power helps fulfill autonomy and control needs, status fulfills belongingness and respect needs, which are more important to well-being. This distinction has important implications. I also suggest that status is a stronger force than power in shaping one’s self-concept because status is a socially affirmed reflection of how others see one’s attributes and characteristics, such as competence and prosociality, whereas power tends to be determined by situational and structural factors outside of the self.
At the group level, whereas prevailing functional models of social hierarchy suggest that hierarchy can improve coordination in teams, conflict perspectives suggest that hierarchy can concurrently harm teams by promoting contests for more power and status that hijack teams' performance goals. I extend the conflict perspective of social hierarchy by investigating determinants of hierarchical conflict, focusing on exploring their drivers, such as individuals’ ability to accurately perceive status hierarchies in groups, individual mental representations of informal organizational structures, and group diversity.