The Hierarchical Face: Higher Rankings Lead to Less Cooperative Looks

Journal of Applied Psychology


Chen, P., Myers, C.G., Kopelman, S., & Garcia, S.M. (2012). The hierarchical face: Higher rankings lead to less cooperative looks. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(2), 479โ€“486.


In 3 studies, we tested the hypothesis that the higher ranked an individual’s group is, the less cooperative the facial expression of that person is judged to be. Study 1 established this effect among business school deans, with observers rating individuals from higher ranked schools as appearing less cooperative, despite lacking prior knowledge of the latters’ actual rankings. Study 2 then experimentally manipulated ranking, showing that the effect of rankings on facial expressions is driven by context rather than by individual differences per se. Finally, Study 3 demonstrated that the repercussions of this effect extend beyond the perception of cooperativeness to tangible behavioral outcomes in social interactions. Theoretical and practical implications of this phenomenon are discussed.