The Roots and Fruits of Social Status in Small-Scale Human Societies


Since humans have lived in small-scale societies for the majority of their existence, investigation of the determinants and reproductive outcomes of status acquisition in these societies can help elucidate the origins of status psychology. In even the most egalitarian foragers and horticulturalists, interindividual differences in physical size, production skill, generosity, or social support produce disparity in men’s political influence and mating opportunity. The reproductive advantages of status not only include higher fertility from privileged access to marriage partners and extramarital affairs but also better survival of offspring. The emergence of hereditary inequality and stratification by social class only exacerbated the rewards to status. The ethnographic record suggests status acquisition has long been subject to positive selection.

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Copyright © 2014 Springer. This book chapter first appeared in The Psychology of Social Status.

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