Dr Nikhila Mahadevan

Department of Psychology
Dr Nikhila Mahadevan



I am a social and personality psychologist with links to evolutionary psychology. In essence, I study the self in social contexts. A core area of my research involves developing and empirically testing a novel theory of self-regard called hierometer theory. Hierometer theory examines the psychological mechanism of self-regard through a socio-evolutionary lens. It posits that self-regard plays a key role in helping people to navigate social hierarchies, by tracking their level of social status, and motivating appropriate status-seeking behaviour. Other areas I am interested in include: social status and inequality, social inclusion, self-esteem, narcissism, emotion and well-being, interpersonal behaviour, and decision-making. I utilise a range of different methods in my work including cross-sectional, experimental, and longitudinal designs. I obtained my BA in Psychology, English Literature, and Mass Communications from Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, India, and my MSc in Psychology from the University of Essex. I then worked in the commercial sector as a Research Consultant, and as an actress, before returning to academia to pursue my PhD. I completed my PhD at the University of Southampton in 2014. My PhD developed and tested a novel theory of self-regard and social hierarchies known as hierometer theory. Following my PhD, I took up postdoctoral research positions at the University of Southampton and Birmingham City University (2014-2017) and then worked as a Lecturer and Senior Lecturer at the University of Roehampton (2017-2019). I joined the University of Essex as a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in 2019.


  • BA Mount Carmel College,

  • MSc University of Essex,

  • PhD University of Southampton,

  • FHEA Higher Education Academy,


University of Essex

  • Lecturer (Assistant Professor), University of Essex (2019 - present)

Other academic

  • Senior Lecturer, University of Roehampton (2018 - 2019)

  • Lecturer, University of Roehampton (2017 - 2018)

  • Research Fellow, Birmingham City University (2015 - 2017)

  • Research Fellow, University of Southampton (2014 - 2015)

Research and professional activities

Research interests

social status and inequality

social inclusion



emotion and well-being

interpersonal behaviour


Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Advanced employability skills and career progression (PS492)

  • Special Topics in Psychology (PS933)


Journal articles (16)

Mahadevan, N., Gregg, AP. and Sedikides, C., (2023). Daily Fluctuations in Social Status, Self-Esteem, and Clinically Relevant Emotions: Testing Hierometer Theory and Social Rank Theory at a Within-Person Level. Journal of Personality. 91 (2), 519-536

Mahadevan, N. and Jordan, C., (2022). Desperately Seeking Status: How Desires for, and Perceived Attainment of, Status and Inclusion Relate to Grandiose and Vulnerable Narcissism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 48 (5), 704-717

Mahadevan, N., Gregg, AP. and Sedikides, C., (2022). How Does Social Status Relate to Self-Esteem and Emotion? An Integrative Test of Hierometer Theory and Social Rank Theory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 152 (3), 632-656

Van Tilburg, W., Saadi, A. and Mahadevan, N., (2021). Citizen Vain? Exposure to the UK Citizenship Test Predicts Milder Demands from Immigrants Across the Political Spectrum. British Journal of Social Psychology. 60 (3), 888-901

Mahadevan, N., Gregg, AP. and Sedikides, C., (2021). Self-Esteem as a Hierometer: Sociometric Status Is a More Potent and Proximate Predictor of Self-Esteem than Socioeconomic Status. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 150 (12), 2613-2635

Mahadevan, N., (2021). Narcissists: there's more than one type - and our research reveals what makes each tick. The Conversation

Van Tilburg, WAP. and Mahadevan, N., (2020). When Imitating Successful Others Fails: Accidentally Successful Exemplars Inspire Risky Decisions and can Hamper Performance. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. 73 (6), 941-956

Mahadevan, N., Gregg, AP. and Sedikides, C., (2020). The Ups and Downs of Social Life: Within-Person Variations in Daily Status and Inclusion Differentially Predict Self-Regard and Interpersonal Behavior. Journal of Personality. 88 (6), 1111-1128

Mahadevan, N., Gregg, AP. and Sedikides, C., (2019). Is self-regard a sociometer or a hierometer? Self-esteem tracks status and inclusion, narcissism tracks status.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 116 (3), 444-466

Mahadevan, N., Gregg, AP. and Sedikides, C., (2019). Where I am and where I want to be: Perceptions of and aspirations for status and inclusion differentially predict psychological health. Personality and Individual Differences. 139, 170-174

Gregg, AP., Mahadevan, N. and Sedikides, C., (2018). Taking the High Ground: The Impact of Social Status on the Derogation of Ideological Opponents. Social Cognition. 36 (1), 43-77

Gregg, AP., Mahadevan, N. and Sedikides, C., (2017). The SPOT Effect: People Spontaneously Prefer their Own Theories. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. 70 (6), 996-1010

Gregg, AP., Mahadevan, N. and Sedikides, C., (2017). Intellectual arrogance and intellectual humility: correlational evidence for an evolutionary-embodied-epistemological account. The Journal of Positive Psychology. 12 (1), 59-73

Mahadevan, N., Gregg, AP., Sedikides, C. and de Waal-Andrews, WG., (2016). Winners, Losers, Insiders, and Outsiders: Comparing Hierometer and Sociometer Theories of Self-Regard.. Frontiers in Psychology. 7 (MAR), 334-

Gregg, AP. and Mahadevan, N., (2014). Intellectual Arrogance and Intellectual Humility: An Evolutionary-Epistemological Account. Journal of Psychology and Theology. 42 (1), 7-18

Gregg, AP., Mahadevan, N., Edwards, SE. and Klymowsky, J., (2014). Detecting lies about consumer attitudes using the timed antagonistic response alethiometer.. Behavior Research Methods. 46 (3), 758-771

Book chapters (1)

Mahadevan, N. and Gregg, AP., (2014). Self-deception. In: Encyclopedia of Deception. Editors: Levine, TR., . SAGE Publications. 978-1452258775

Other (1)

Mahadevan, N., (2021).Narcissists: there’s more than one type – and our research reveals what makes each tick

+44 (0) 1206 874152


3.712C, Colchester Campus