Children's social evaluation toward prestige-based and dominance-based powerholders

BMC Res Notes. 2022 May 15;15(1):180. doi: 10.1186/s13104-022-06072-6.


Objective: Social scientists have suggested two typical ways of acquiring social power: dominance approach (gaining social power by applying violence, coercion, threat, and punishment) and prestige approach (gaining admiration and liking by demonstrating competence and sharing experience and knowledge). However, little is known about how people recognize and evaluate the differentiated process of the approaches, and even less about the early development of these processes. In the current study, 5-6-year old children heard stories about pairs comprising a dominance-based and a prestige-based powerholder, chose one of the powerholders as their friend and leader, and predicted which powerholder will gain the contested resources.

Results: Compared to a dominance-based powerholder, children were more likely to choose a prestige-based powerholder as a friend and leader in different situations. Moreover, children predicted that prestige-based powerholders, and not dominance-based powerholders, would gain contested resources. These findings suggest that since childhood, human beings tend to be biased to not only judge prestige-based aspects as socially preferable, but also endorse the prestige-based powerholders' priority to possess valuable resources, which subsequently strengthens their high social status. These early childhood preferences can be instrumental in providing more harmonious environments for children in educational and daily contexts.

Keywords: Children; Dominance; Prestige; Social evaluation; Social hierarchy.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coercion
  • Emotions
  • Friends
  • Humans
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Social Dominance*