The Multiple Dimensions of Male Social Status in an Amazonian Society




While social-status hierarchies are common to all human societies, status acquisition is relatively understudied in small-scale societies lacking significant material wealth or intergenerational inheritance. Among the Tsimane of Bolivia, a small-scale Amazonian society, we employ a photo-ranking methodology to determine the important predictors of four measures of male social status: success in dyadic physical confrontation, getting one's way in a group, community-wide influence, and respect. The predictors evaluated include age, physical size, skill in food production, level of acculturation, prosocial personality, and social support. We find that physical size best predicts rankings of dyadic fighting ability while social support best predicts getting one's way in a group, community-wide influence, and respect. Level of acculturation, furthermore, is an independent predictor of influence but not respect, and skill in food production is an independent predictor of respect but not influence. The lack of a linear relationship between age and the polyadic social-status measures is evaluated in light of the increasing exposure of the Tsimane to market economies and public education among recent age cohorts. To our knowledge, this study is the first multivariate analysis of social status that considers different determinants of status simultaneously.

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Refer to Dr. Christopher von Rueden's website for further information.

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Copyright © 2008 Elsevier Inc. This article first appeared in Evolution and Human Behavior 29, no. 6 (November 2008): 402-415.

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