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Sartorial symbols of social class elicit class-consistent behavioral and physiological responses: a dyadic approach.

  • Author(s): Kraus, Michael W
  • Mendes, Wendy Berry
  • et al.
Abstract

Social rank in human and nonhuman animals is signaled by a variety of behaviors and phenotypes. In this research, we examined whether a sartorial manipulation of social class would engender class-consistent behavior and physiology during dyadic interactions. Male participants donned clothing that signaled either upper-class (business-suit) or lower-class (sweatpants) rank prior to engaging in a modified negotiation task with another participant unaware of the clothing manipulation. Wearing upper-class, compared to lower-class, clothing induced dominance--measured in terms of negotiation profits and concessions, and testosterone levels--in participants. Upper-class clothing also elicited increased vigilance in perceivers of these symbols: Relative to perceiving lower-class symbols, perceiving upper-class symbols increased vagal withdrawal, reduced perceptions of social power, and catalyzed physiological contagion such that perceivers' sympathetic nervous system activation followed that of the upper-class target. Discussion focuses on the dyadic process of social class signaling within social interactions.

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