Self-Control in Nonverbal and Social Behavior Causes and Predicts Increases in the Attribution and Attainment of Status

Colloquium | October 2 | 12:10-1:15 p.m. | 1104 Berkeley Way West

 Dana R. Carney, Barbara and Gerson Bakar Faculty Fellow, BerkeleyHaas

 Institute of Personality and Social Research

In work led by Michael Rosenblum, we hypothesized that nonverbal and social behavioral demonstrations of self-control/restraint would lead to higher attributions of status—regardless of that person’s actual status. Across 6 investigations: four laboratory experiments (3 pre-registered) and two field studies we found evidence that more controlled nonverbal and social behavior led to: higher perceived status, higher teaching evaluations, and more funding in a Tech Crunch competition (total N = 2286). Perceived responsibility mediated the link between experimentally manipulated social/nonverbal behavior (controlled vs. uncontrolled) and perceived status (above and beyond other possible alternatives, e.g., competence, attractiveness, warmth). The rationale for our prediction was that historical accounts and sociological theory suggest that high status individuals in society employ different rules to govern social interactions than those who lack status. The social function of these differing rules of engagement are to allow the higher status individuals a secret code – nonverbal and behavioral self-control/restraint—with which to distinguish themselves from those lower in status (Elias, 2000). While there are glimmers of evidence in the social psychological and developmental literatures suggesting that behavioral self-control/regulation may signal status, no research (of which we are aware) has directly tested this hypothesis. Theoretical implications on delay of gratification/time preferences and approach-inhibition theory will be briefly discussed.

Based on research by: Michael Rosenblum, Emily S. Reit, Dana Kanze, Vivian Lo, Robb Willer, & Brian Lowery, 510-642-5050