Volume 18, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1572-0373
  • E-ISSN: 1572-0381
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Past research dedicated to the impact of hierarchy on the autonomic nervous system has focused mainly on dominance. The current study extends this investigation by assessing the effect of social prestige, operationalized through occupational status, and examines whether people react differently when interacting with individuals of high or low occupational status. Participants’ heart rate and electrodermal activity were recorded while they interacted with a confederate who was introduced either as a neurosurgeon (high-status condition) or as a nurse aide (low-status condition). The results show that, contrary to the participants’ skin conductance level, their heart rate was modulated by the confederate’s status. In the high-status condition, participants’ heart rate increased when the “neurosurgeon” approached them, reaching a higher level than when interacting with the person in the low-status condition. We discuss our results in terms of the threats or opportunities that prestige may elicit.


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