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Status Gains versus Status Losses: Loss Aversion and Deviance
Justice Quarterly  (IF4.717),  Pub Date : 2020-12-16, DOI: 10.1080/07418825.2020.1856400
Kyle J. Thomas, Holly Nguyen


The relationship between associating with (non)deviant peers and one’s own delinquent tendencies is often attributed to the motivation for positive reinforcement and status attainment. Guided by prospect theory and loss aversion, we assert that there is an alternative mechanism through which individuals conform to peer influence – to prevent loss of status for not conforming to the peer group. We surveyed over 1,200 college students at multiple universities across the United States and randomly provided them with hypothetical scenarios related to fighting, driving drunk, and using marijuana where the social consequences were framed as either gains or losses in status. Respondents reported a greater willingness to engage in both deviance and non-deviance when the social consequences were framed as status losses compared to status gains. Our findings are supportive of loss aversion and we advocate for further research that merges individual decision making and peer influence.