Is Self-Regard a Sociometer or a Hierometer? Self-Esteem Tracks Status and Inclusion, Narcissism Tracks Status

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Abstract

What adaptive function does self-regard serve? Sociometer theory predicts that it positively tracks social inclusion. A new theory, hierometer theory, predicts that it positively tracks social status. We tested both predictions with respect to two types of self-regard: self-esteem and narcissism. Study 1 (N = 940), featuring a cross-sectional design, found that both status and inclusion covaried positively with self-esteem, but that status alone covaried positively with narcissism. These links held independently of gender, age, and the Big Five personality traits. Study 2 (N = 627), a preregistered cross-sectional study, obtained similar results with alternative measures of self-esteem and narcissism. Studies 3–4 featured experimental designs in which status and inclusion were orthogonally manipulated. Study 3 (N = 104) found that both higher status and higher inclusion promoted higher self-esteem, whereas only higher status promoted higher narcissism. Study 4 (N = 259) obtained similar results with alternative measures of self-esteem and narcissism. The findings suggest that self-esteem operates as both sociometer and hierometer, positively tracking both status and inclusion, whereas narcissism operates primarily as a hierometer, positively tracking status.

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