restricted access Consensus and the Creation of Status Beliefs

We develop a new status construction theory argument that apparently valid social realities in which a salient social difference is consistently linked to signs of status and competence induce participants to form status beliefs. Supporting this social validity account, an experiment showed that when an influence hierarchy developed between categorically different actors and appeared to be consensually accepted in the situation and therefore valid, participants formed strongly differentiated status beliefs about the categorical distinction. Yet when slight challenges to these influence hierarchies broke the validating consensus, participants' status beliefs were significantly weaker and less clear. An implication is that acts of resistance can disrupt the emergence of new status beliefs, so that while some differences become axes of status inequality, others do not.