Why do high-status people have larger social networks? Belief in status-quality coupling as a driver of network-broadening behavior and social network size

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Previous research has demonstrated that the size and reach of people's social networks tend to be positively related to their social status. Although several explanations help to account for this relationship-for example, higher-status people may be part of multiple social circles and therefore have more social contacts with whom to affiliate-we present a novel argument involving people's beliefs about the relationship between status and quality, what we call status-quality coupling. Across seven separate studies, we demonstrate that the positive association between social status and network-broadening behavior (as well as social network size) is contingent on the extent to which people believe that status is a reliable indicator of quality. Across each of our studies, high- and low-status people who viewed status and quality as tightly coupled differed in their network-broadening behaviors, as well as in the size of their reported social networks. The effect was largely driven by the perceived self-value and perceived receptivity of the networking target. Such differences were significantly weaker or nonexistent among equivalently high- and low-status people who viewed status as an unreliable indicator of quality. Because the majority of participants-both high- and low-status-exhibited beliefs in status-quality coupling, we conclude that such a belief marks an important and previously unaccounted-for driver of the relationship between status, network-broadening behaviors, and social networks. Implications for research on social capital, advice seeking, and inequality are highlighted in the discussion section.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-132
Number of pages22
JournalOrganization Science
Volume32
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Experimental design
  • Network-broadening behavior
  • Networking
  • Psychological processes
  • Social networks
  • Status
  • Status-quality coupling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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