Dominant actors are neither liked nor respected, yet they are reliably deferred to. Extant explanations of why dominant actors are deferred to focus on deferrers’ first-order judgments (i.e., the deferrers’ own private assessment of the dominant actor). The present research extends these accounts by considering the role of second-order judgments (i.e., an individual’s perception of what others think about the dominant actor) in decisions to defer to dominant actors. While individuals themselves often have little respect for dominant actors, we hypothesized that (1) they think others respect dominant actors more than they do themselves, and (2) these second-order respect judgments are associated with their decision to defer dominant actors above and beyond their own first-order respect judgments. The results of four studies provide support for these hypotheses: across a variety of contexts, we found evidence that individuals think others respect dominant actors more than they themselves do (Studies 1-3), and perceptions of others’ respect for dominant actors is associated with individuals’ own decisions to defer to them, above and beyond first-order respect (Studies 3-4). Results highlight the importance of considering second-order judgments in order to fully understand why dominant actors achieve high social rank in groups and organizations.