Culture and Social Hierarchy

A large body of research, conducted predominantly in Western cultures, has shown that social hierarchy influences psychological processes. People who are ranked higher in their society (e.g., those who have more power, those who belong to higher socioeconomic status) tend to show more self-oriented thinking and an analytic cognitive style than people who are ranked lower in the society. However, social hierarchy exists within certain cultural contexts, which can shape its meaning and manifestation (Miyamoto, 2013). In this line of research, we have elucidated the effects of social hierarchy on psychological processes and how cultural contexts may moderate the effects.


  • Power fosters an analytic attentional style in the U.S., but this pattern is non-existent or reversed in Japan (Miyamoto & Wilken, 2010).
  • In the U.S., higher socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with stronger self-orientation. On the other hand, in East Asia, higher SES is associated not only with stronger self-orientation, but also with stronger other-orientation (Miyamoto, Yoo, et al., 2018).

A model of mutual constitution among cultural meaning system, sociocultural status contexts, and
psychological processes from Miyamoto, Yoo, et al. (2018).

Relevant Publications:

Miyamoto, Y., Yoo, J., Levine, C. S., Park, J., Boylan, J. M., Sims, T., Markus, H. R., Kitayama, S., Kawakami, N., Karasawa, M., Coe, C. L., Love, G. D., & Ryff, C. D. (2018). Culture and social hierarchy: Self- and other-oriented correlates of socioeconomic status across cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 115, 427-445.

Miyamoto, Y. (2017). Culture and social class. Current Opinion in Psychology, 18, 67-72.

Miyamoto, Y. (2013). Culture and analytic versus holistic cognition: Toward multilevel analyses of cultural influencesAdvances in Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 131-188.

Miyamoto, Y., & Ji, L.J. (2011). Power fosters context-independent, analytic cognitionPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 1449-1458.

Miyamoto, Y. & Wilken, B. (2010). Culturally contingent situated cognition: Influencing others fosters analytic perception in the U.S. but not in JapanPsychological Science, 21, 1616-1622.