The Effects of Social Class on Individuals’ Decision-Making Tendencies in a Prestige-Money Game: Social Value or Instrumental Value?

  • Pei WangEmail author
  • Cheng-Hao Tang
Original Paper


Through a series of three experiments, this study explored the possible influence of social class on the decision-making tendency of prestige-seeking in a Prestige-Money Game, and further explored the internal sources of such influence. In Experiment 1, the participants’ social class was manipulated to examine whether there were class effects in prestige-seeking when individuals of different social classes were paired together in a Prestige-Money Game. In Experiment 2, social rank, which only contained ranking differences, was adopted as a more abstract proxy variable for social class to investigate whether class effects still existed in prestige-seeking in a Prestige-Money Game. Based on the results of Experiment 1 and 2, Experiment 3 further explored the sources of motivation for prestige-seeking among subjects of different social class. The results showed that upper-class individuals showed greater money-seeking tendencies when facing an upper-class opponent, and showed greater prestige-seeking tendencies when facing a lower-class opponent. Such tendencies were derived from social rank; instrumental value played a substantial role. The game strategy of lower-class individuals were mainly oriented toward their personal needs. Specifically, they showed greater prestige-seeking when facing an upper-class opponent, and showed greater money-seeking when facing a lower-class opponent. Such tendencies were derived from the activation of their social class identity; the role of instrumental value was limited. These findings suggest that the essential differences in the game tendencies of individuals from different social classes in a Prestige-Money Game may originate from the fact that different social classes have different demands for the instrumental value and social value of prestige.


Decision-making Social class Instrumental value Social value 



This study was Sponsored by Peak Discipline Construction Project of Education at East China Normal University.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of Shanghai Normal University’s research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyShanghai Normal UniversityShanghaiChina

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