We See Dominance

Foragers might have spend a million years enforcing egalitarian rules against overt dominance, but our capacities for seeing dominance are still quite central to our nature:

We tested the hypothesis that social hierarchies are fluent social stimuli; that is, they are processed more easily and therefore liked better than less hierarchical stimuli. In Study 1, pairs of people in a hierarchy based on facial dominance were identified faster than pairs of people equal in their facial dominance. In Study 2, a diagram representing hierarchy was memorized more quickly than a diagram representing equality or a comparison diagram. This faster processing led the hierarchy diagram to be liked more than the equality diagram. In Study 3, participants were best able to learn a set of relationships that represented hierarchy (asymmetry of power)—compared to relationships in which there was asymmetry of friendliness, or compared to relationships in which there was symmetry—and this processing ease led them to like the hierarchy the most. In Study 4, participants found it easier to make decisions about a company that was more hierarchical and thus thought the hierarchical organization had more positive qualities. In Study 5, familiarity as a basis for the fluency of hierarchy was demonstrated by showing greater fluency for male than female hierarchies. This study also showed that when social relationships are difficult to learn, people’s preference for hierarchy increases. Taken together, these results suggest one reason people might like hierarchies—hierarchies are easy to process. This fluency for social hierarchies might contribute to the construction and maintenance of hierarchies. (more)

More evidence for the homo hypocritus hypothesis that covert dominance was central to forager lives.

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