Research article

The Facets of Social Hierarchy: How Judges’ Legitimacy Beliefs and Relative Status Shape Their Evaluation of Assertiveness and Ability



Contemporary approaches of impression formation and stereotypes celebrate the role of the Big Two in social evaluation: the horizontal and vertical dimensions (Abele et al., 2021). Recently, interest has grown in making further distinctions within each of these dimensions (Abele et al., 2008). Here, we focused on the vertical facets, namely, assertiveness and ability. Research found that assertiveness is more strongly related to a target’s status than ability. Arguably, this pattern emerges because assertiveness comes across as less negotiable, whereas ability leaves more room for appreciation. Building on this assumption, we reasoned that judgments of ability provide more opportunity to justify or to reclaim positive identity, depending on one’s position in the hierarchy. Specifically, we hypothesized that the legitimacy beliefs and status of the judges are key factors to consider in that they moderate the perceived overlap between the vertical facets. Using a novel paradigm based on Goodman et al.’s (2001) social ladder, Studies 1a and 1b relied on judges’ legitimacy beliefs as a proxy for status, whereas Studies 2 and 3 directly examined the judges’ relative status. As predicted, we consistently found more overlap between assertiveness and ability among high-legitimacy/status judges than among low-legitimacy/status judges. We discuss the importance of taking into account the more specific meaning of the facets.


Big Twofacetssocial evaluationstereotypesstatushierarchy
  • Year: 2022
  • Volume: 35 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 18
  • DOI: 10.5334/irsp.695
  • Submitted on 9 Feb 2022
  • Accepted on 22 Jun 2022
  • Published on 3 Oct 2022
  • Peer Reviewed