Psychology 4690F 001 FW23

Special Topics in Industrial and Organizational Psychology: "The Psychology of Status and Power"

If there is a discrepancy between the outline posted below and the outline posted on the OWL course website, the latter shall prevail.



LONDON               CANADA 

Department of Psychology 

Fall 2023 


Psychology 4690F    Section 001 

Special topics in Industrial and Organizational Psychology: The Psychology of Status and Power 





This course offers an overview of research on the nature of status and power within groups and organizations from a psychological perspective. In this course, we will review and discuss contemporary theory on the emergence, maintenance, and implications of social hierarchy. We will cover a range of topics, including the bases of social hierarchy (i.e., power and status), why and how people compete for status and power, and the consequences of social rank in groups and organizations. We will address these topics at multiple levels of analysis to understand the personal, interpersonal, and group implications of social hierarchy.  


Antirequisite: Not Applicable. 



Prerequisite(s): Both Psychology 2801F/G and Psychology 2811A/B, or the former Psychology 2820E, or both the former Psychology 2800E and the former Psychology 2810, PLUS registration in fourth year Main Campus Honours Specialization in Psychology or fourth year Honours Specialization in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. Fourth year Main Campus Psychology students and Main Campus Psychology Special Students who receive 75% in the prerequisite courses may enrol in this course. 


3 seminar hours  

Course Weight: 0.5 


Unless you have either the prerequisites for this course or written special permission from your Dean to enrol in it, you may be removed from this course and it will be deleted from your record. This decision may not be appealed. You will receive no adjustment to your fees in the event that you are dropped from a course for failing to have the necessary prerequisites. 





Instructor: Dr. Alex Benson  

Office and Phone Number: SSC 8408  

Office Hours: Tuesday 3:00pm-4:00pm (or by appointment)  



Time and Location of Classes: see Student Centre

Delivery Method: In-Person 


Students who are in emotional/mental distress should refer to Health and Wellness @Western for a complete list of options about how to obtain help. 


Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if you require any other arrangements to make this course more accessible to you. You may also contact Accessible Education at  or 519-661-2147. 


2.1 Online Learning Notice: 
Please note: For courses delivered in an online format, include an online component, or are required to pivot online, students must have a reliable internet connection and computer that are compatible with online learning system requirements. Some courses may also require the use of a remote proctoring platform to ensure assessments are taken fairly in accordance with Western’s policy on Scholastic Discipline for Undergraduate Students and Scholastic Discipline for Graduate Students. Please refer to the course syllabus for further information. 




There is no textbook for this class. Instead, a list of required readings will be available through OWL. Each reading will be available through the library either as a physical copy or digitally accessible through OWL. Weekly assigned readings, specified below, are to be completed before each class meeting. 





This seminar course on social hierarchy within groups and organizations will cover a range of topics, including the bases of social hierarchy, why and how people compete for status and power, the dynamic nature of power and status within groups, and the consequences of social rank in groups and organizations. We will address these topics at multiple levels of analysis to understand the personal, interpersonal, and group implications of social hierarchy. Students will also learn about the methods used to study social hierarchy within group contexts and the challenges of research in this area. Students will learn contemporary theory, concepts, and methods relevant to the nature and consequences of social hierarchy in organizations. This course is organized around student-driven discussions, weekly assigned readings, content-focused lectures, and in-class activities. Students will also prepare and deliver a research presentation for their final paper.  


Learning Outcome  

Learning Activity  


Depth and Breadth of Knowledge.  

  • Evaluate and describe contemporary theory and methods relevant to the emergence, maintenance, and implications of social hierarchy in organizations. 

Weekly reading 

Reflection questions 

Class discussion 

Research proposal 

In-class examination 

Reflection questions 

Class participation grades 

Research proposal 

Knowledge of Methodologies.  

  • Critically evaluate the appropriateness of different approaches to studying social hierarchy within organizations. 

Weekly reading 


Reflection questions 

Class discussion 


In-class examination 


Reflection questions 

Class participation grades 


Seminar presentation 


Research proposal 

Application of Knowledge.  

  • Apply concepts and theories to novel examples of behaviours and situations. 

Class discussion 


Reflection questions 

Research proposal 

In-class examination 


Reflection questions 

Class participation grades 


Seminar presentation 

Communication Skills.  

  • Conceptualize and summarize findings from the scholarly literature and communicate these orally and in writing. 


Research proposal  


Class discussion 


Seminar presentation 

Reflection questions 

Class participation grades 

Seminar presentation 


Research proposal 


Awareness of Limits of Knowledge. 

  • Understand constraints on the generality of findings based on the research context and target population. 
  • Understand the gap between theory and practice as it pertains to status and power in organizations. 


Weekly reading 


Reflection questions 

Class discussion 


Research proposal 

Reflection questions 

Class participation grades 


Seminar presentation 


Research proposal 

Autonomy and Professional Capacity. 

  • Identify a research question that builds upon course material and propose a study to effectively address it. 
  • Effectively engage in collegial discussions, consider alternative viewpoints, and work effectively with others. 

Reflection questions 

Class discussion 


Research proposal 

Class participation grades 


Seminar presentation 


Research proposal 





The evaluation and testing formats for this course were created to assess the learning objectives as listed in section 4.0 and are considered necessary for meeting these learning objectives. 



Class participation (20%) - This is a seminar style course that relies on students to actively participate in class discussions. To facilitate these discussions, students are expected to come to class prepared with comments and questions about the readings that caught their interest and be prepared to respond to other students’ comments and questions. Student participation should reflect deep and critical engagement with the weekly readings. Class participation will be evaluated based on the quality of contributions to the discussions.  


Weekly submitted reflection questions (10%) - Every week, students will be asked to submit one discussion question to the discussion board located under “Forum” on OWL by Tuesday before 10pm, for that week’s corresponding lecture. All students in the class will have access to the weekly submitted discussion questions. In addition, all students are responsible for reviewing the questions posted to OWL prior to Thursday’s class to ensure that there is a collective understanding of the viewpoints and questions elicited by the reading. Excellent questions will demonstrate critical thought in relation to the assigned reading and should serve to stimulate a thoughtful and productive exchange of ideas. 


In-class examination (35%) - A cumulative in-class examination will take place on November 9th. The examination will be 2 hours in length and will primarily consist of short answer questions.  


Research proposal (25% written component + 10% verbal component) - Students will have the opportunity to apply course material by formulating a research question and proposing a study to answer it. The final paper should [1] provide a brief literature review, [2] outline a hypothesis (or hypotheses) you are interested in testing, [3] specify a method for examining the proposed question, [4] describe your expected results, and [5] discuss implications and plausible alternative accounts of what the research may yield. The final paper must be at least 2500 words, not including references (double-spaced, formatted with 12-point Times New Roman; 1-inch margins on all sides; written in accordance with APA 7th guidelines) and is due on Dec. 8th before 11:55pm. Please submit via OWL using the “Assignments” tab. There will be a 10% per day penalty for late submissions of research proposal papers. As a guide, the introduction should be 4-6 pages in length, the method should be 1-3 pages in length, the expected results should be 1-3 pages in length, and the implications/alternative accounts should be 2-4 pages.  

During the classes of November 16, November 23, November 30, you will present your proposal to the class and receive feedback to help you with the final version of your proposal. Your presentation is expected to be 10 minutes long and should provide the class with a detailed understanding of your proposed study (i.e., what is the relevance of your research question, what do we currently know, what don’t we know, and why is the gap important to address, the study design). There will be 5 minutes allotted for discussion following each presentation.  






Weekly submitted reflection questions If you have academic counselling-approved documentation or have received permission from Dr. Benson, you may submit your discussion questions later in the week. Otherwise, you will receive a grade of 0 on weeks that you do not submit your reflection question by Tuesday before 10pm. 


In-class examination - If you have an excused absence and are unable to write the in-class examination (i.e., academic counselling-approved documentation), then you will write an alternative version with the time and date to be determined. The makeup exam may be in a different format from the regular exam. If you have a non-excused absence and you do not write the final exam, you will receive a grade of 0. 


Research proposal - The final paper is due on Dec. 8th before 11:55pm. There will be a 10% per day penalty for late submission of research proposal papers. For your in-class research presentation, if you have an excused absence and are unable to present on the originally scheduled date (i.e., academic counselling-approved documentation), then you will present your proposal at an alternative time, which may fall outside of class hours due to scheduling. If you have a non-excused absence and you do not present your research proposal on the scheduled date, you will receive a grade of 0. 


PLEASE NOTE: Because this is an essay course, as per Senate Regulations, you must pass the essay component to pass the course. That is, the average mark for your written assignments must be at least 50%. 


This course is exempt from the Senate requirement that students receive assessment of their work accounting for at least 15% of their final grade at least three full days before the date of the deadline for withdrawal from a course without academic penalty. 



The expectation for course grades within the Psychology Department is that they will be distributed around the following averages: 


70% 1000-level to 2099-level courses 

72% 2100-2999-level courses 

75% 3000-level courses 

80% 4000-level courses 


The Psychology Department follows Western’s grading guidelines, which are as follows (see: 


A+ 90-100 One could scarcely expect better from a student at this level 

A 80-89 Superior work that is clearly above average 

B 70-79 Good work, meeting all requirements, and eminently satisfactory 

C 60-69 Competent work, meeting requirements 

D 50-59 Fair work, minimally acceptable 

F below 50 Fail 


Note that in the event that course grades are significantly higher or lower than these averages, instructors may be required to make adjustments to course grades. Such adjustment might include the normalization of one or more course components and/or the re-weighting of various course components. 


Policy on Grade Rounding: Please note that although course grades within the Psychology Department are rounded to the nearest whole number, no further grade rounding will be done. No additional assignments will be offered to enhance a final grade; nor will requests to change a grade because it is needed for a future program be considered. To maximize your grade, do your best on each and every assessment within the course. 





Date and Time 


In-Class Examination  

Thursday, November 9, 1:30pm-3:30pm ET 


Reflection Questions 

Bi-weekly. For Due every Tuesday before 10:00pm ET 

OWL via the “Forum” tab 

Research Proposal Paper 

Due before 11:55pm on December 8th 

OWL via the “Assignment” tab 

Research Proposal Presentation 

Presentations will occur in-class on November 16, November 23, and November 30. The presenter schedule will be determined during the first class.  







***Please note that all additional readings listed as ‘optional’ are for those who might be interested in reading further about a topic for their research paper.  I will cover many of these additional papers during the lecture portion of classes.   


1      Sept. 7 Introduction, overview, and scheduling of presentations (no assigned readings). Attendance is mandatory, meaning participation marks will be deducted if you do not attend. 



  1. Sep. 14 The bases of hierarchy: status and power 


Weekly reading(s):  


Magee, J. C., & Galinsky, A. D. (2008). Social Hierarchy: The selfreinforcing nature of power and status. Academy of Management Annals, 2, 351-398. doi: 10.5465/19416520802211628 



Optional reading(s): 

Van Kleef, G. A., & Cheng, J. T. (2020). Power, status, and hierarchy: Current trends and future challenges. Current Opinion in Psychology, 33. 



  1. Sep. 21 How status and power affect us 


Anderson, C., Hildreth, J. A. D., & Howland, L. (2015). Is the desire for status a fundamental human motive? A review of the empirical literature. Psychological Bulletin, 141(3), 574. 


Guinote, A. (2017). How power affects people: activating, wanting, and goal seeking. Annual Review of Psychology, 68, 353-381. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010416-044153 



Optional reading(s): 

Friesen, J. P., Kay, A. C., Eibach, R. P., & Galinsky, A. D. (2014). Seeking structure in social organization: Compensatory control and the psychological advantages of hierarchy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106(4), 590. 

Sapolsky, R. M. (2005). The influence of social hierarchy on primate health. Science, 308(5722), 648-652. 




  1. 4. 28 How do individuals acquire power and status?


Weekly reading(s): 


Cheng, J. T., Tracy, J. L., Foulsham, T., Kingstone, A., & Henrich, J. (2013). Two ways to the top: Evidence that dominance and prestige are distinct yet viable avenues to social rank and influence. Journal of personality and social psychology, 104, 103-125. 


Kilduff, G. J., & Galinsky, A. D. (2013). From the ephemeral to the enduring: How approach-oriented mindsets lead to greater status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(5), 816.  



Optional readings: 

Redhead, D., Cheng, J. T., Driver, C., Foulsham, T., & O'Gorman, R. (2019). On the dynamics of social hierarchy: A longitudinal investigation of the rise and fall of prestige, dominance, and social rank in naturalistic task groups. Evolution and Human Behavior, 40(2), 222-234.  



  1. 5.     5 Individual differences in power and status attainment



Weekly reading(s): 


Grosz, M. P., Leckelt, M., & Back, M. D. (2019). Personality predictors of social status attainment. Current Opinion in Psychology, 32, 52-56. 


Hamilton, L. D., Carré, J. M., Mehta, P. H., Olmstead, N., & Whitaker, J. D. (2015). Social neuroendocrinology of status: a review and future directions. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, 1, 202-230.    



Optional readings: 


Li, Z., Lynch, J., Sun, T., Rizkyana, A., Cheng, J. T., & Benson, A. J. (2023). Power motives, personality correlates, and leadership outcomes: A person-centered approach. Journal of Personality. 

Anderson, C., Hildreth, J. A. D., & Sharps, D. L. (2020). The possession of high status strengthens the status motive. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 46(12), 1712-1723.  




  1. 6.         Oct. 12 How our perception and behaviour toward others is shaped by social rank


Weekly reading(s): 

Anicich, E. M., Fast, N. J., Halevy, N., & Galinsky, A. D. (2015). When the bases of social hierarchy collide: Power without status drives interpersonal conflict. Organization Science, 27, 123-140. doi: 10.1287/orsc.2015.1019 


Kakkar, H., Sivanathan, N., & Gobel, M. S. (2020). Fall from grace: The role of dominance and prestige in the punishment of high-status actors. Academy of Management Journal, 63(2), 530-553. 


Optional reading(s): 

Fast, N. J., Halevy, N., & Galinsky, A. D. (2012). The destructive nature of power without status. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(1), 391–394. 




  1. 7. 19 How and why people are affected by status and power in different ways


Weekly reading(s): 


Brescoll, V. L. (2011). Who takes the floor and why: Gender, power, and volubility in organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 56(4), 622-641. 


Rosette, A. S., Koval, C. Z., Ma, A., & Livingston, R. (2016). Race matters for women leaders: Intersectional effects on agentic deficiencies and penalties. The Leadership Quarterly, 27(3), 429-445.  



Optional reading(s): 

Ma, A., Rosette, A. S., & Koval, C. Z. (2022). Reconciling female agentic advantage and disadvantage with the CADDIS measure of agency. Journal of Applied Psychology.  




  1. 8.         Oct. 26 Hierarchy and group functioning/Class Review


Weekly reading(s): 


Aime, F., Humphrey, S., DeRue, D. S., & Paul, J. B. (2014). The riddle of heterarchy: Power transitions in cross-functional teams. Academy of Management Journal, 57, 327-352. 



Optional reading(s): 


Benson, A. J., McGregor, A., Martin, L. J., Allen, N. J., & Bruner, M. B. (2023). The rank dynamics of integrating new members: The process of hierarchical crafting. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 12(1), 72-88. 


Greer, L. L., de Jong, B. A., Schouten, M. E., & Dannals, J. E. (2018). Why and when hierarchy impacts team effectiveness: A meta-analytic integration. Journal of Applied Psychology, 103(6), 591–613.  


Ronay, R., Maddux, W. W., & Von Hippel, W. (2020). Inequality rules: Resource distribution and the evolution of dominance-and prestige-based leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 31(2), 101246.  


Kilduff, G. J., Willer, R., & Anderson, C. (2016). Hierarchy and its discontents: Status disagreement leads to withdrawal of contribution and lower group performance. Organization Science, 27, 373-390.   




  1. Nov. 2 READING WEEK (no class)      



  1. Nov. 9 In-class examination         



  1. Nov. 16 Student presentations (no assigned readings) 



  1. Nov. 23 Student presentations (no assigned readings) 



  1. Nov. 30 Student presentations (no assigned readings) 



  1. Dec. 7       Make-up presentations if needed/Time allotted for final research paper





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In the event that in-person exams are unexpectedly canceled, you may only be given notice of the use of a proctoring service a short time in advance. 






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If you experience an extenuating circumstance (e.g., illness, injury) sufficiently significant to temporarily make you unable to meet academic requirements, you may request accommodation through the following routes:  

  1. For medical absences, submitting a Student Medical Certificate (SMC) signed by a licensed medical or mental health practitioner in order to be eligible for Academic Consideration;  
  1. For non-medical absences, submitting appropriate documentation (e.g., obituary, police report, accident report, court order, etc.) to Academic Counselling in their Faculty of registration in order to be eligible for academic consideration. Students are encouraged to contact their Academic Counselling unit to clarify what documentation is appropriate. 


Students must see the Academic Counsellor and submit all required documentation in order to be approved for certain accommodation. 


Students seeking academic consideration: 

  • are advised to consider carefully the implications of postponing tests or midterm exams or delaying handing in work;   
  • must communicate with their instructors no later than 24 hours after the end of the period covered SMC, or immediately upon their return following a documented absence 


Students seeking accommodation for religious purposes are advised to contact Academic Counselling at least three weeks prior to the religious event and as soon as possible after the start of the term. 




In the event of a COVID-19 resurgence or any other event that necessitates the course delivery moving away from face-to-face interaction, all remaining course content will be delivered entirely online, either synchronously (i.e., at the times indicated in the timetable) or asynchronously (e.g., posted on OWL for students to view at their convenience). The grading scheme will not change. Any remaining assessments will also be conducted online, as determined by the course instructor. 




In courses involving online interactions, the Psychology Department expects students to honour the following rules of etiquette: 

  • please “arrive” to class on time 
  • please use your computer and/or laptop if possible (as opposed to a cell phone or tablet) 
  • please ensure that you are in a private location to protect the confidentiality of discussions in the event that a class discussion deals with sensitive or personal material 
  • to minimize background noise, kindly mute your microphone for the entire class until you are invited to speak, unless directed otherwise 
  • In classes larger than 30 participants please turn off your video camera for the entire class unless you are invited to speak 
  • In classes of 30 students or fewer, where video chat procedures are being used, please be prepared to turn your video camera off at the instructor’s request if the internet connection becomes unstable 
  • Unless invited by your instructor, do not share your screen in the meeting 


The course instructor will act as moderator for the class and will deal with any questions from participants. To participate please consider the following: 

  • If you wish to speak, use the “raise hand” function and wait for the instructor to acknowledge you before beginning your comment or question. 
  • Please remember to unmute your microphone and turn on your video camera before speaking. 
  • Self-identify when speaking. 
  • Please remember to mute your mic and turn off your video camera after speaking (unless directed otherwise). 


General considerations of “netiquette”: 

  • Keep in mind the different cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the students in the course. 
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  • Be respectful of the diversity of viewpoints that you will encounter in the class and in your readings. The exchange of diverse ideas and opinions is part of the scholarly environment. “Flaming” is never appropriate. 
  • Be professional and scholarly in all online postings. Use proper grammar and spelling. Cite the ideas of others appropriately. 


Note that disruptive behaviour of any type during online classes, including inappropriate use of the chat function, is unacceptable. Students found guilty of Zoom-bombing a class or of other serious online offenses may be subject to disciplinary measures under the Code of Student Conduct. 




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Please first contact the course instructor. If your issue is not resolved, you may make your appeal to the Undergraduate Chair in Psychology ( 


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