To provide evidence that tendencies for psychological self-protection were the crucial critical link between status and violence, Henry assessed survey data from over 1,500 Americans.
In this nationally representative sample, low-socioeconomic status (low-SES) individuals reported far more psychological defensiveness in terms of considering themselves more likely to be taken advantage of and trusting people less.
ethnic minorities) tend to engage in more vigilant psychological self-protection than those from high-status groups.
Demonstrating your value to a group—whether through competence or selflessness—appears to improve status.
Anderson and Aiwa Shirako suggest that the amplifier for this effect is the degree to which one has social connections with others.
The traditional explanation for this pattern, popularized by psychologists Dov Cohen and Richard Nisbett, is that herding cultures have a propensity for maintaining a Culture of Honor.
The story goes that because herders from Southern Britain originally settled in the Southern United States (and also established a herding economy on the new land), this left them in an economically precarious position.
Psychologist PJ Henry at De Paul University recently published an article demonstrating that low-status individuals have higher tendencies toward violent behavior, explaining these differences in terms of low-status compensation theory.
Henry began this work by observing that murder rates were higher in regions with landscapes conducive to herding compared to regions that are conducive to farming, consistent with prior research showing an association between herding-based economies and violence.
Nobel Laureate economist, John Harsanyi, said that “apart from economic payoffs, social status seems to be the most important incentive and motivating force of social behavior.” The more noticeable status disparities are, the more concerned with status people become, and the differences between the haves and have-nots have been extremely pronounced during the economic recession of recent years.
Barack Obama campaigned directly on the issue of the “dwindling middle class” during his 2008 presidential run and appointed vice-president Joe Biden to lead a middle class task force specifically to bolster this demographic.
Despite some recent economic improvement, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont just two months ago cautioned that “the reality is that the middle class today in this country is in desperate shape and the gap between the very very wealthy and everyone else is going to grow wider.” Concerns about status likely will not be leaving the public consciousness any time soon.