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Picking Up the Gauntlet: How Individuals Respond to Status Challenges


Christine L. Porath, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089. E-mail:


How do people respond to status challenges? We suggest that responses depend on the relative status and genders of challenger and target. These variables affect appraisals about the status challenge (operationally defined as an act of incivility) and likely outcomes of various responses, and those appraisals proximately determine responses. Studies 1 and 2 show that male gender and high status were associated with more aggressive responses, whereas female gender and low status were associated with more avoidant responses. Study 3 shows that men's and women's responses were not perfectly antithetical: Men showed the greatest resistance toward peers, which may reflect greater sensitivity to status contests among men. Perceived legitimacy of challengers' actions and consequences affect the status–gender–response relationships.