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Status As Armor: We Want Status Because It Makes Us Feel Safer
Humans pursue status for different motives, including affiliation, influence, and access to resources. We argue that safety is one such important yet overlooked motive. Drawing on theorizing on the evolutionary basis of status and research on status-disparity related outcomes, we theorize that status provides people a sense of safety. In three studies, we establish a link between varying measures of status and associated perceptions of psychological and physical safety using both correlational (Study 1) and experimental designs (Studies 2 and 3). In Study 3, we also consider the competing hypothesis of a power-safety link alongside the status-safety link, demonstrating that when facing a potential conflict, people with status feel safer and prefer it over power. Our data suggest that this preference is driven by situational control: power enables people to effectively respond to threats; status prevents threats altogether. Collectively, these findings extend our understanding on the role and relative importance of status in social hierarchies.