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The impact of dynamic status changes within competitive rank-ordered hierarchies


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Kakkar H;Sivanathan N;Pettit N C


Publication Year



Jockeying and competing for higher status is an inherent feature of rank-ordered hierarchies. Despite theoretically acknowledging rank changes within hierarchies, the extant literature has ignored the role of competitors' dynamic movements on a focal actor's resulting behavior. By using a dynamic lens to examine these movement in competitive situations, we examine how positive change in a competitor's rank-that is, positive status momentum-affects a focal actor's psychology and resulting performance. We consider the real-world contexts of 5.2 million observations of chess tournaments and 117,762 observations of professional tennis players and find that a focal actor's performance in both cognitive and physical competitions is negatively impacted when facing a competitor with positive momentum. Additionally, 4 experimental studies reveal that a competitor's positive momentum results in the focal actor's positive projection of the competitor's future rank, which, in turn, increases the psychological threat for the actor. Collectively, our findings advance the social hierarchy literature by helping to elucidate the manner in which rank-ordered hierarchies are negotiated and disrupted over time.


Competition; Psychological momentum; Social rank; Status; Threat

Available on ECCH


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