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Feng Bai

PhD Candidate, Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources, Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia
MPhil (City University of Hong Kong), BMgt (Nanjing University, China)

Contact Information

Office Henry Angus 391

Research interests

My research focuses on understanding how social inequality arises and affects individual and organizational outcomes. I am particularly interested in understanding (1) the role of morality in hierarchies, and (2) the effects of hierarchy on individual and group performance.

Dissertation Overview

Title: A Moral Virtue Theory of Status Attainment

Research has identified two major routes to status: dominance, based on coercion that induces fear, and competence, based on skills that earn respect. Until recently, research has generally overlooked the role that moral behavior plays in status attainment, and we know little about how, why, and when demonstrating moral characteristics can enhance status. Drawing on philosophy, anthropology, psychology, and organizational behavior, I critically review and integrate research on the role of morality and status attainment to propose a third route to status: virtue. Virtuous acts elicit feelings of warmth and admiration, and willing deference, toward virtuous actors. In addition, I consider how this virtue route is bound by culture. In particular, I theorize that virtues pertaining to community and divinity (e.g., cleanliness) are more effective for attaining status in interdependence-oriented cultures, and that virtues pertaining to autonomy (e.g., rights) are more effective for attaining status in independence-oriented cultures. I have conducted experiments to examine this virtue theory of status attainment. Preliminary findings provide initial support for the virtue route to attaining status and for the moderating role of culture in affecting the effectiveness of the virtue route. My dissertation hence adds insights to our understanding of how individuals get ahead in social and organizational hierarchies, moving beyond dominance and competence.

Dissertation committee: Jennifer L. Berdahl (chair), Jacob B. Hirsh, Danielle D. van Jaarsveld, and Chen-Bo Zhong


  • Bai, F., Uhlmann, E. L., & Berdahl, J. L. (in press). 'The Robustness of the Win-Win Effect.' Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
  • Berdahl, J. L., Uhlmann, E. L., & Bai, F. (2015).' Win-win: Female and male athletes from more gender equal nations perform better in international sports competitions.' Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,  56: 1-3. (lead article)
  • Bai, F. (2014). 'A (moral) virtue theory of status attainment in human social hierarchies.' Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings.
  • Lam, K. F., & Bai, F. (2011). 'Minimizing deviations of input and output weights from their means in data envelopment analysis.' Computers & Industrial Engineering, 60: 527-533.

Manuscripts Under Review

  • Bai, F. (2nd round review). 'Beyond dominance and competence: A moral virtue theory of status attainment.' Personality and Social Psychology Review.
  • Bai F., Stuart, C.H., & Berdahl, J.L. (2nd round review). 'Is status inequality functional for group performance? Modeling the effects of legitimacy and task type.' Organization Science.
  • Berdahl, J. L., Bai, F., & Schieman, S. (2nd round review). 'Ambition gap or ambition slap? Gender, ambition, and mistreatment at work.' Social Psychology Quarterly
  • Silberzahn, R., Uhlmann, E. L., Martin, D., Anselmi, P., Aust, F., Awtrey, E., Bahník, Š., Bai, F., … Nosek, B.A. (2nd round review). Many analysts, one dataset: Making transparent how variations in analytical choices affect results. Perspectives on Psychological Science.

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