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Pride, Meritocracy, and Social Dominance Orientation

  • Author(s): Antonenko Young, Olga
  • Advisor(s): Keltner, Dacher
  • et al.

Hierarchies emerge across all human societies, resulting in some individuals holding more resources than others. Pride is a critical emotion that signals one's status in the hierarchy to the self and others. We propose that pride is also related to the rationale individuals hold for the existence of hierarchies. Different aspects of pride may underlie the explanations people use for why hierarchies exist and the criteria upon which to judge others' positions within the hierarchy. The current set of studies explore the relationship between two facets of pride and two attitudes related to hierarchy - a preference for the merit principle (PMP), which posits that resources should be distributed based on accomplishment and performance, and social dominance orientation (SDO), which posits that some groups of people are innately superior to others. Study 1 suggests that high trait levels of alpha pride, an emotion stemming from the belief that one's success is due to stable, uncontrollable factors, are associated with high SDO and low PMP. High trait levels of beta pride, an emotion stemming from the belief that one's success is due to unstable, controllable factors, are unassociated with SDO, but related to high PMP. These associations remain after controlling for alternative explanatory variables including entity beliefs, positive affect, and impression management. Study 2 manipulates experiences of alpha and beta pride in order to examine downstream effects on hierarchy-maintaining attitudes. The results of Study 2 indicate that while alpha pride is associated with increased SDO and beta pride is associated with decreased SDO, both facets of pride at the state level are associated with increased PMP. In order to begin addressing the mechanism underlying the associations between different facets of pride and hierarchy-maintaining attitudes, Study 3 manipulates attributions for failure. Results lend some evidence that the association can be attributed to motivated reasoning and a desire to preserve one's elevated status.

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