Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health in Maryland carried out the study where participants were asked to play a computer game for money. The experts scanned their brains which revealed that different brain areas were activated when participants perceived themselves moving up or down a pecking order. An improvement in status produced changes similar to those seen from winning money in the brain's 'value centre', whereas, a fall in status activated areas known to process emotional pain and frustration.
According to a report of the study in the Telegraph, a lower social rank caused psychological damage through feelings of limited control over one's life and poor interaction with others.
However, the study also showed that people at the top who believed that they might stand to lose their position were also vulnerable to stress-related illness.