Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Barry Markovsky


Previous findings have shown that intelligence test scores of members of disadvantaged groups are negatively affected by their relative status in test situations. We explain this by assuming that lower-status actors forego benefits that normally follow from successful performance of a task if they anticipate that there are also costs associated with success. We use an integration of Status Characteristics Theory, Rational Choice Theory, Prospect Theory, and Self-Categorization Theory to argue that compared to high status individuals, those of lower status should be particularly affected by costs associated with high performance. We ran an experiment that manipulated factors such as perceived social status and rewards/costs associated with intelligence test performance. We found that low status individuals do, in fact, score lower than high status individuals when they anticipate costs for high test performance. We further identified that the underperformance was due to a conscious attempt to put forth less effort on the test. A follow-up study assessed the extent to which the social status of the person giving the sanctions contributes to this relationship. We found that low status individuals are particularly affected by sanctions that their in-group give for high performances. We discuss the implications of these findings in the context of educational inequality.

Included in

Sociology Commons