Is the desire for status a fundamental human motive? A review of the empirical literature

Psychol Bull. 2015 May;141(3):574-601. doi: 10.1037/a0038781. Epub 2015 Mar 16.


The current review evaluates the status hypothesis, which states that that the desire for status is a fundamental motive. Status is defined as the respect, admiration, and voluntary deference individuals are afforded by others. It is distinct from related constructs such as power, financial success, and social belongingness. A review of diverse literatures lent support to the status hypothesis: People's subjective well-being, self-esteem, and mental and physical health appear to depend on the level of status they are accorded by others. People engage in a wide range of goal-directed activities to manage their status, aided by myriad cognitive, behavioral, and affective processes; for example, they vigilantly monitor the status dynamics in their social environment, strive to appear socially valuable, prefer and select social environments that offer them higher status, and react strongly when their status is threatened. The desire for status also does not appear to be a mere derivative of the need to belong, as some theorists have speculated. Finally, the importance of status was observed across individuals who differed in culture, gender, age, and personality, supporting the universality of the status motive. Therefore, taken as a whole, the relevant evidence suggests that the desire for status is indeed fundamental.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Group Processes
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Motivation*
  • Self Concept
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Dominance
  • Socioeconomic Factors