Journal of Statistical Physics

, Volume 151, Issue 3–4, pp 440–457 | Cite as

The Social Climbing Game

  • Marco Bardoscia
  • Giancarlo De Luca
  • Giacomo Livan
  • Matteo MarsiliEmail author
  • Claudio J. Tessone


The structure of societies depends, to some extent, on the incentives of the individuals they are composed of. We study a stylized model of this interplay, that suggests that the more individuals aim at climbing the social hierarchy, the more society’s hierarchy gets strong. Such a dependence is sharp, in the sense that a persistent hierarchical order emerges abruptly when the preference for social status gets larger than a threshold. This phase transition has its origin in the fact that the presence of a well defined hierarchy allows agents to climb it, thus reinforcing it, whereas in a “disordered” society it is harder for agents to find out whom they should connect to in order to become more central. Interestingly, a social order emerges when agents strive harder to climb society and it results in a state of reduced social mobility, as a consequence of ergodicity breaking, where climbing is more difficult.


Social networks Phase transitions Game theory 



We thank Sanjeev Goyal and Giacomo Gori for precious hints and fruitful discussions. C. J. T. acknowledges financial support from Swiss National Science Foundation through grant 100014_126865 and SBF (Swiss Confederation) through research project C09.0055. M. B. heartily thanks M. V. Carlucci for her dedicated support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marco Bardoscia
    • 1
  • Giancarlo De Luca
    • 2
  • Giacomo Livan
    • 1
  • Matteo Marsili
    • 1
    Email author
  • Claudio J. Tessone
    • 3
  1. 1.Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical PhysicsTriesteItaly
  2. 2.SISSA, International School for Advanced StudiesTriesteItaly
  3. 3.Chair of Systems DesignETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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