Take Action

Home | Faculty & Research Overview | Research

Research Details

Hierarchy in the Eye of the Beholder: (Anti-) Egalitarianism Shapes Perceived Levels of Social Inequality, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Abstract

Debate surrounding the issue of inequality and hierarchy between social groups has become increasingly prominent in recent years. At the same time, individuals disagree about the extent to which inequality between advantaged and disadvantaged groups exists. Whereas prior work has examined the ways in which individuals legitimize (or delegitimize) inequality as a function of their motivations, we consider whether individuals’ orientation towards group-based hierarchy motivates the extent to which they perceive inequality between social groups in the first place. Across 8 studies in both real- world (race, gender, and class) and artificial contexts, and involving members of both advantaged and disadvantaged groups, we show that the more individuals endorse hierarchy between groups, the less they perceive inequality between groups at the top and groups at the bottom. Perceiving less inequality is associated with rejecting egalitarian social policies aimed at reducing it. We show that these differences in hierarchy perception as a function of individuals’ motivational orientation hold even when inequality is depicted abstractly using images, and even when individuals are financially incentivized to accurately report their true perceptions. Using a novel methodology to assess accurate memory of hierarchy, we find that differences may be driven by both anti-egalitarians underestimating inequality, and egalitarians overestimating it. In sum, our results identify a novel perceptual bias rooted in individuals’ chronic motivations towards hierarchy-maintenance, with the potential to influence their policy attitudes.

Type

Article

Author(s)

Nour Kteily

Date Published

2017

Citations

Kteily, Nour. 2017. Hierarchy in the Eye of the Beholder: (Anti-) Egalitarianism Shapes Perceived Levels of Social Inequality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

KELLOGG INSIGHT

Explore leading research and ideas

Find articles, podcast episodes, and videos that spark ideas in lifelong learners, and inspire those looking to advance in their careers.
learn more

COURSE CATALOG

Review Courses & Schedules

Access information about specific courses and their schedules by viewing the interactive course scheduler tool.
LEARN MORE

DEGREE PROGRAMS

Discover the path to your goals

Whether you choose our Full-Time, Part-Time or Executive MBA program, you’ll enjoy the same unparalleled education, exceptional faculty and distinctive culture.
learn more

Take Action