Date of Award


Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Academic Program

Psychology BS



First Advisor

Donald Sacco, Ph.D.

Advisor Department



Numerous social and cultural events have resulted in increased interest and participation in social activism in the United States, stemming from mounting dissatisfaction with social inequality. Though explanations have previously included increased issue exposure and awareness due to the proliferation of digital media and increases in progressive ideology amongst the nation’s younger generation, the current study tests the hypothesis that social activism may in part be motivated by interest in status acquisition, given the evolutionary value of status for securing access to resources and mates. To test this hypothesis, participants were randomly assigned to a status versus control priming condition on a between participant basis and reported interest in participation in low (e.g., signing an online petition) versus high-cost social activism (e.g., attending a rally). Results supported our hypothesis that individuals would be more likely to engage in low-cost activism, an effect that was magnitudinally larger for women. Given human sexual dimorphism, women may prefer safer forms of activism. Contrary to hypotheses, status priming did not influence men’s and women’s interest in either form of activism. Exploratory analyses indicated that men higher in political conservatism reported greater interest in social activism, and that independent of participant sex, higher conservatism was associated with more interest in high-cost activism. These latter findings are consistent with past work finding that conservatism is associated with status seeking more generally. Collectively, these findings contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the factors that underlie participation in social activism.