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Winner Take(s) All Society: The Self in Status Contests

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Social standing is commonly established through winner take-all arrangements-where disproportionate resources are afforded to an elite few “winners.” Contests to decide who is afforded the apex of these hierarchies are often fierce. Across a set of studies, I examine how self-threat, a by-product of actors jockeying for status, may direct actors’ efforts towards nefarious behaviours, all in the service of winning these contests. Furthermore, an additional set of studies further demonstrates that rising to the very top produces among its winners a sense of entitlement: a sense of self-deservingness that justifies all means. Armed with this inflated self-view, winners embezzled funds from the experimenter, deceived fellow participants, and misrepresented their achievements in the service of benefiting the self. Together, these studies highlight the transformative effects changes within hierarchy have on the self.

This talk is part of the Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS) series.

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