Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Donald Sacco

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

David Echevarria

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Richard Mohn

Committee Member 3 Department

Educational Research and Administration

Committee Member 4

Alen Hajnal

Committee Member 4 Department



A prominent feature of human (and non-human primate) social group structure involves the establishment and maintenance of a social hierarchy; that is, social groups are arranged hierarchically, based on individuals’ level of status, and conspecifics who more effectively ascend this status hierarchy accrue more reproductive and resource benefits (Hawley, 1999). Thus, for any individual, other group members could be either a threat to one’s status, or an ally to assist status goals, and accurate identification of these various social targets would have adaptive utility in status maintenance or status hierarchy ascension. The current study tested the hypotheses that activation of status motives would enhance accurate discrimination of trust and affiliative cues from faces, thus aiding in status acquisition, especially for men. Participants were randomly assigned to a status or control prime condition and completed two face perception tasks: a trustworthy/untrustworthy discrimination task and a real/fake smile discrimination task. Individual differences in status striving and socioeconomic status were measured. While the primary hypotheses were not supported, partial support was found such that those higher in dispositional status seeking demonstrated greater accuracy discriminating between trustworthy and untrustworthy faces. Additionally, those higher in socioeconomic status demonstrated reduced accuracy when identifying genuine or false smiles. These patterns suggest that a number of individual differences may predict differential accuracy in face perception. The theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.