This is a really broad question - what you seem to be asking is: what research addresses social hierarchies, competition, and neurological/psychological/physiological effects of perception of social status.
It's interesting to note that social status signals likely developed before language, as they are a means of non-verbal communication (language is quite new, evolutionarily-speaking).
In the most broad sense, the answer to your question is that research on social psychology and social neuroscience, particularly that related to hierarchy, dominance, and perception of social standing, is what you're looking for. This is the 'body of research'.
Past this point, I'm not sure what you're asking... Are you wondering in what brain structures this type of behavior appears to originate? Or are you more interested in the cognitive processing going on behind the scenes when people mentally alter their internalized social standing? Or are you looking for a jumping off point?
If you are particularly looking for the neural basis of this behavior, check out the links below. All relate to the neurological basis of social processing in the human brain.
I'm at work so I don't have a lot of time to put together a comprehensive answer, but here are some articles:
For the record, the Google search used to find these was
neural correlates of perceived social +status