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Status Processes and Mental Ability Test Scores1

Bowling Green State UniversityBarry Markovsky University of Lowa

The expected consequences of a Score on an Ability test can constrain individual performance. The authors predict that status processes, including status differences and the differences in rewards and costs that result, will produce differences in ability test scores between high‐status and low‐status individuals. In three controlled experiments, participants randomly assigned low status scored lower on a standard test of mental ability (the Raven Progressive Matrices) than did participants assigned high status. For both men and women, the difference in ability test score between low‐status and high‐status participants was about half a standard deviation. The results suggest the need to account for status differences in any attempt ot measure mental ability accurately.