Conversation in Park (1746) by Thomas-Gainsborough (1727-1788)

Conversation in a Park by Thomas Gainsborough, 1746

Living organisms including humans are social when they live collectively in interacting populations, whether they are aware of it, and whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary.


The word “Social” derives from the Latin word socii (“allies”). It is particularly derived from the Italian Socii states, historical allies of the Roman Republic (although they rebelled against Rome in the Social War of 91-88 BC).


In the absence of agreement about its meaning, the term “social” is used in many different senses and regarded as a concept, referring among other things to:

Attitudes, orientations, or behaviors which take the interests, intentions, or needs of other people into account (in contrast to anti-social behaviour) has played some role in defining the idea or the principle. For instance terms like social realism, social justice, social constructivism, social psychology, social anarchism and social capital imply that there is some social process involved or considered, a process that is not there in regular, “non-social” realism, justice, constructivism, psychology, anarchism, or capital.

The adjective “social” is also used often in politics, although its meaning in a context depends heavily on who is using it. In left-wing circles it is often used to imply a liberal characteristic, while in right-wing circles it is generally used to imply a conservative characteristic. This adjective is used much more often by those on the political left than by those on the political right. For these reasons, those seeking to avoid association with the left-right political debates often seek to label their work with phrases that do not include the word “social”. An example is quasi-empiricism in mathematics which is sometimes labelled social constructivism by those who see it as an unwarranted intrusion of social considerations in mathematical practice.

Social theorists

In the view of Karl Marx[1] human beings are intrinsically, necessarily and by definition social beings who, beyond being “gregarious creatures”, cannot survive and meet their needs other than through social co-operation and association. Their social characteristics are therefore to a large extent an objectively given fact, stamped on them from birth and affirmed by socialization processes; and, according to Marx, in producing and reproducing their material life, people must necessarily enter into relations of production which are “independent of their will”.

By contrast, the sociologist Max Weber[1] for example defines human action as “social” if, by virtue of the subjective meanings attached to the action by individuals, it “takes account of the behavior of others, and is thereby oriented in its course”.

In socialism

The term “socialism“, used from the 1830s onwards in France and the United Kingdom, was directly related to what was called the social question. In essence, early socialists contended that the emergence of competitive market societies did not create “liberty, equality and fraternity” for all citizens, requiring the intervention of politics and social reform to tackle social problems, injustices and grievances (a topic on which Jean-Jacques Rousseau discourses at length in his classic work The Social Contract). Originally the term “socialist” was often used interchangeably with “co-operative“, “mutualist“, “associationist” and “collectivist” in reference to the organization of economic enterprise socialists advocated, in contrast to the private enterprise and corporate organizational structures inherent to capitalism.

The modern concept of socialism evolved in response to the development of industrial capitalism. The “social” in modern “socialism” came to refer to the specific perspective and understanding socialists had of the development of material, economic forces and determinants of human behavior in society. Specifically, it denoted the perspective that human behavior is largely determined by a person’s immediate social environment, that modes of social organization were not supernatural or metaphysical constructs but products of the social system and social environment, which were in turn products of the level of technology/mode of production (the material world), and were therefore constantly changing. Social and economic systems were thus not the product of innate human nature, but of the underlying form of economic organization and level of technology in a given society, implying that human social relations and incentive-structures would also change as social relations and social organization changes in response to improvements in technology and evolving material forces (relations of production). This perspective formed the bulk of the foundation for Karl Marx’s materialist conception of history.

Modern uses

In contemporary society, “social” often refers to the redistributive policies of the government which aim to apply resources in the public interest, for example, social security. Policy concerns then include the problems of social exclusion and social cohesion. Here, “social” contrasts with “private” and to the distinction between the public and the private (or privatised) spheres, where ownership relations define access to resources and attention.

The social domain is often also contrasted with that of physical nature, but in sociobiology analogies are drawn between humans and other living species in order to explain social behavior in terms of biological factors. The term “social” is also added in various other academic sub-disciplines such as social geographysocial psychologysocial anthropologysocial philosophysocial ontologysocial statistics and social choice theory in mathematics.

See also


  1. Jump up to:a b Morrison, Ken. Marx, Durkheim, Weber. Formations of modern social thought

External links

Social status

Social status is the relative respect, competence, and deference accorded to people, groups, and organizations in a society.[1][2] At its core, status is about who is thought to be comparatively better.[3] These beliefs about who is better or worse are broadly shared among members of a society.[4] As such, status hierarchies decide who gets to “call the shots,” who is worthy, and who deserves access to valuable resources. In so doing, shared cultural beliefs uphold systems of social stratification by making inequality in society appear natural and fair.[5] Status hierarchies appear to be universal across human societies, affording valued benefits to those who occupy the higher rungs, such as better health, social approval, resources, influence, and freedom.[2]

Status hierarchies depend primarily on the possession and use of status symbols. These are cues people use to determine how much status a person holds and how they should be treated.[6] Such symbols can include possession of socially valuable attributes, like being conventionally beautiful or having a prestigious degree. Wealth and the display of it through conspicuous consumption are also indicators of status.[7]


Some perspectives on social status emphasize its relatively fixed and fluid aspects. Ascribed statuses are fixed for an individual at birth, while achieved status is determined by social rewards an individual acquires during his or her lifetime as a result of the exercise of ability and/or perseverance.[8] Examples of ascribed status include castesrace, and beauty among others. Meanwhile, achieved statuses are akin to one’s educational credentials or occupation: these things require a person to exercise effort and often undergo years of training.

The status that is the most important for an individual at a given time is called master status.[9][10]

In different societies

Status refers to the relative rank that an individual holds; this includes attendant rights, duties, and lifestyle, in a social hierarchy based upon honor or prestige. Status has two different types that come along with it: achieved, and ascribed. The word status refers to social stratification on a vertical scale.

In modern societies, occupation is usually thought of as the main determinant of status, but other memberships or affiliations (such as ethnic groupreligiongender, voluntary associations, fandomhobby) can have an influence.[11][12] Achieved status is when people are placed in the stratification structure based on their individual merits or achievements. This status can be achieved through education, occupation, and marital status. Their place within the stratification structure is determined by society’s bar, which often judges them on success, success being financial, academic, political and so on. America most commonly uses this form of status with jobs. The higher you are in rank the better off you are and the more control you have over your co-workers.

In pre-modern societies, status differentiation is widely varied. In some cases it can be quite rigid and class based, such as with the Indian caste system. In other cases, status exists without class and/or informally, as is true with some Hunter-Gatherer societies such as the Khoisan, and some Indigenous Australian societies. In these cases, status is limited to specific personal relationships. For example, a Khoisan man is expected to take his wife’s mother quite seriously (a non-joking relationship), although the mother-in-law has no special “status” over anyone except her son-in-law—and only then in specific contexts. All societies have a form of social status.

Status is an important idea in social stratificationMax Weber distinguishes status from social class,[13] though some contemporary empirical sociologists combine the two ideas to create socioeconomic status or SES, usually operationalised as a simple index of incomeeducation and occupational prestige.

Social status in nonhuman animals

Social status hierarchies have been documented in a wide range of animals: apes,[14] baboons,[15] wolves,[16] cows/bulls,[17] hens,[18] even fish,[19] and ants.[20] Natural selection produces status-seeking behavior because animals tend to have more surviving offspring when they raise their status in their social group.[21] Such behaviors vary widely because they are adaptations to a wide range of environmental niches. Some social dominance behaviors tend to increase reproductive opportunity,[22] while others tend to raise the survival rates of an individual’s offspring.[23] Neurochemicals, particularly serotonin,[24] prompt social dominance behaviors without need for an organism to have abstract conceptualizations of status as a means to an end. Social dominance hierarchy emerges from individual survival-seeking behaviors.

Social status inconsistency

Status inconsistency is a situation where an individual’s social positions have both positive and negative influences on his or her social status. For example, a teacher may have a positive societal image (respect, prestige) which increases their status but may earn little money, which simultaneously decreases their status.

Inborn and acquired social status

In historic Chilean agriculture an inquilino is a labourer indebted to a landlord who allows him to form a farm in parts of his property

Social status is often associated with clothing and possessions. Compare the foreman with a horse and high hat with the inquilino in picture. Image from 19th century rural Chile.

Social statuses based on inborn characteristics, such as ethnicity, are called ascribed statuses, while statuses that individuals gained through their own efforts are called achieved statuses. Specific behaviors are associated with social stigmas, which can affect status.

Ascribed status is when one’s position is inherited through family. Monarchy is a widely recognized use of this method, to keep the rulers in one family. This usually occurs at birth without any reference as to how that person may turn out to be a good or bad leader.

Social mobility

Social status can be changed through a process of social mobility. Social mobility is change of position within the stratification system. A move in status can be upward (upward mobility), or downward (downward mobility). Social mobility allows a person to move to another social status other than the one he or she was born in. Social mobility is more frequent in societies where achievement rather than ascription is the primary basis for social status.

Social mobility is especially prominent in the United States in recent years with an ever-increasing number of women entering into the workplace as well as a steady increase in the number of full-time college students.[25][26]This increased education as well as the massive increase in multiple household incomes has greatly contributed to the rise in social mobility obtained by so many today. With this upward mobility; however, comes the philosophy of “Keeping up with the Joneses” that so many Americans obtain. Although this sounds good on the surface, it actually poses a problem because millions of Americans are in credit card debt due to conspicuous consumption and purchasing goods that they do not have the money to pay for.

Social stratification

Social stratification describes the way people are placed or “stratified” in society. It is associated with the ability of individuals to live up to some set of ideals or principles regarded as important by the society or some social group within it. The members of a social group interact mainly within their own group and to a lesser degree with those of higher or lower status in a recognized system of social stratification. Such ties between people are often fluid and amorphous. Some of the more common bases for such raking include:


  • Wealth/Income (most common): Ties between persons with the same personal income
  • Gender: Ties between persons of the same sex and sexuality
  • Political status: Ties between persons of the same political views/status
  • Religion: Ties between persons of the same religion
  • Race/Ethnicity: Ties between persons of the same ethnic/racial group
  • Social class: Ties between persons born into the same economic group
  • Coolness: Ties between persons who have similar levels of popularity

Max Weber’s three dimensions of stratification

The German sociologist Max Weber developed a theory proposing that stratification is based on three factors that have become known as “the three p’s of stratification”: property, prestige and power. He claimed that social stratification is a result of the interaction of wealth (class), prestige status (or in German Stand) and power (party).[27]

  • Prestige is a significant factor in determining one’s place in the stratification system. The ownership of property is not always going to assure power, but there are frequently people with prestige and little property.
  • Property refers to one’s material possessions and their life chances. If someone has control of property, that person has power over others and can use the property to his or her own benefit.
  • Power is the ability to do what one wants, regardless of the will of others. (Domination, a closely related concept, is the power to make others’ behavior conform to one’s commands). This refers to two different types of power, which are possession of power and exercising power. For example, some people in charge of the government have an immense amount of power, and yet they do not make much money.

Max Weber developed various ways that societies are organized in hierarchical systems of power. These ways are social status, class power and political power.

  • Class Power: This refers to unequal access to resources. If you have access to something that someone else needs, that can make you more powerful than the person in need. The person with the resource thus has bargaining power over the other.
  • Social Status (Social Power): If you view someone as a social superior, that person will have power over you because you believe that person has a higher status than you do.
  • Political Power: Political power can influence the hierarchical system of power because those that can influence what laws are passed and how they are applied can exercise power over others.

There has been discussion about how Weber’s three dimensions of stratification are more useful for specifying social inequality than more traditional terms like Socioeconomic Status.[28]

Status group

Max Weber developed the idea of “status group” which is a translation of the German Stand (pl. Stände). Status groups are communities that are based on ideas of lifestyles and the honor the status group both asserts, and is given by others. Status groups exist in the context of beliefs about relative prestige, privilege, and honor and can be of both a positive and negative sort. People in status groups are only supposed to engage with people of like status, and in particular, marriage inside or outside the group is discouraged. Status groups can include professions, club-like organizations, ethnicity, race, and other groups for which pattern association.[29]

Pierre Bourdieu’s theory on class distinction

The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu developed theories of social stratification based on aesthetic taste in his work Distinction. Bourdieu claims that how one chooses to present one’s social space to the world, one’s aesthetic dispositions, depicts one’s status and distances oneself from lower groups. Specifically, Bourdieu hypothesizes that these dispositions are internalized at an early age and guide the young towards their appropriate social positions, towards the behaviors that are suitable for them, and an aversion towards other lifestyles.

Bourdieu theorizes that class fractions teach aesthetic preferences to their young. Class fractions are determined by a combination of the varying degrees of social, economic, and cultural capital. Society incorporates “symbolic goods, especially those regarded as the attributes of excellence, […as] the ideal weapon in strategies of distinction”.[30] Those attributes deemed excellent are shaped by the interests of the dominating class. He emphasizes the dominance of cultural capital early on by stating that “differences in cultural capital mark the differences between the classes”.[31]

Aesthetic dispositions are the result of social origin rather than accumulated capital and experience over time. The acquisition of cultural capital depends heavily on “[t]otal, early, imperceptible learning, performed within the family from the earliest days of life”.[30]Bourdieu hypothetically guarantees that the opinions of the young are those that they are born into, the accepted “definitions that their elders offer them”.[32]

He asserts the primacy of social origin and cultural capital by claiming that social capital and economic capital, though acquired cumulatively over time, depend upon it. Bourdieu claims that “one has to take account of all the characteristics of social condition which are (statistically) associated from earliest childhood with possession of high or low income and which tend to shape tastes adjusted to these conditions”.[33]

According to Bourdieu, tastes in food, culture and presentation, are indicators of class, because trends in their consumption seemingly correlate with an individual’s fit in society.[34] Each fraction of the dominant class develops its own aesthetic criteria. A multitude of consumer interests based on differing social positions necessitates that each fraction “has its own artists and philosophers, newspapers and critics, just as it has its hairdresser, interior decorator or tailor.”[35]

Bourdieu does not wholly disregard the importance of social capital and economic capital in the formation of cultural capital. In fact, the production of art and the ability to play an instrument “presuppose not only dispositions associated with long establishment in the world of art and culture but also economic means…and spare time”.[36] However, regardless of one’s ability to act upon one’s preferences, Bourdieu specifies that “respondents are only required to express a status-induced familiarity with legitimate… culture”.[37]

“[Taste] functions as a sort of social orientation, a ‘sense of one’s place’, guiding the occupants of a given… social space towards the social positions adjusted to their properties, and towards the practices or goods which befit the occupants of that position”.[38] Thus, different modes of acquisition yield differences in the nature of preferences.[39]

These “cognitive structures…are internalized, ’embodied’ social structures”, becoming a natural entity to the individual.[40] Different tastes are thus seen as unnatural and rejected, resulting in “disgust provoked by horror or visceral intolerance (‘sick-making’) of the tastes of others.”[41]

Bourdieu himself believes class distinction and preferences are “most marked in the ordinary choices of everyday existence, such as furniture, clothing or cooking, which are particularly revealing of deep-rooted and long-standing dispositions because, lying outside the scope of the educational system, they have to be confronted, as it were, by naked taste”.[42] Indeed, Bordieu believes that “the strongest and most indelible mark of infant learning” would probably be in the tastes of food.[43] Bourdieu thinks that meals served on special occasions are “an interesting indicator of the mode of self-presentation adopted in ‘showing off’ a life-style (in which furniture also plays a part)”.[43] The idea is that their likes and dislikes should mirror those of their class fractions.

Children from the lower end of the social hierarchy are predicted to choose “heavy, fatty fattening foods, which are also cheap” in their dinner layouts, opting for “plentiful and good” meals as opposed to foods that are “original and exotic”.[33][43] These potential outcomes would reinforce Bourdieu’s “ethic of sobriety for the sake of slimness, which is most recognized at the highest levels of the social hierarchy,” that contrasts the “convivial indulgence” characteristic of the lower classes.[44] Demonstrations of the tastes of luxury (or freedom) and the tastes of necessity reveal a distinction among the social classes.

The degree to which social origin affects these preferences surpasses both educational and economic capital. In fact, at equivalent levels of educational capital, social origin remains an influential factor in determining these dispositions.[37] How one describes one’s social environment relates closely to social origin because the instinctive narrative springs from early stages of development.[45] Also, across the divisions of labor “economic constraints tend to relax without any fundamental change in the pattern of spending”.[46] This observation reinforces the idea that social origin, more than economic capital, produces aesthetic preferences because regardless of economic capability consumption patterns remain stable.

For Social status see also

References for Social status

  1. Jump up^ Sauder, Michael; Lynn, Freda; Podolny, Joel (2012). “Status: Insights from Organizational Sociology”Annual Review of Sociology38: 267–283. doi:10.1146/annurev-soc-071811-145503.
  2. Jump up to:a b Anderson, Cameron; Hildreth, John; Howland, Laura (2015). “Is the Desire for Status a Fundamental Human Motive? A Review of the Empirical Literature”. Psychological Bulletin141 (3): 574–601. doi:10.1037/a0038781PMID 25774679.
  3. Jump up^ Sedikides, C.; Guinote, A. (2018). “”How Status Shapes Social Cognition: Introduction to the Special Issue,”The Status of Status: Vistas from Social Cognition”. Social Cognition36(1): 1–3.
  4. Jump up^ Simandan, D., 2018. Rethinking the health consequences of social class and social mobility. Social Science & Medicine.
  5. Jump up^ Ridgeway, Cecilia L.; Correll, Shelley (2006). “Consensus and the Creation of Status Beliefs”Social Forces85: 431–453. doi:10.1353/sof.2006.0139.
  6. Jump up^ Goffman, Erving (1951). “Symbols of Class Status”. British Journal of Sociology2 (4): 294–304. doi:10.2307/588083JSTOR 588083.
  7. Jump up^ Veblen, Thornstein (1899). The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions. MacMillan.
  8. Jump up^ Linton, Ralph (1936). The Study of Man. Appleton Century Crofts.
  9. Jump up^ Robert Brym; John Lie (11 June 2009). Sociology: Your Compass for a New World, Brief Edition: Enhanced Edition. Cengage Learning. p. 88. ISBN 0-495-59893-3.
  10. Jump up^ Ferris, Kelly, and Jill Stein. “The Self and Interaction.”Chapter 4 of The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology. W. W. Norton & Company Inc, Dec. 2011. Accessed 20 September 2014.
  11. Jump up^
  12. Jump up^ “The Effect of Middle School Extra Curricular Activities on Adolescents’ Popularity and Peer Status – EDER and KINNEY 26 (3): 298 – Youth & Society”. 1995-03-01. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  13. Jump up^ Weber, Max. 1946. “Class, Status, Party.” pp. 180–95 in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (eds.). New York: Oxford University.
  14. Jump up^ Chimpanzee Politics (1982, 2007) deWaal, Frans, Johns Hopkins University Press
  15. Jump up^ Sapolsy, R.M. “Cortisol concentrations and the social significance of rank instability among wild baboons”. Journal of Psychoneuroendocrinology17: 701–09.
  16. Jump up^ Accessed 10 September 2012
  17. Jump up^ Rutberg, Allen T. (2010). “Factors Influencing Dominance Status in American Bison Cows (Bison bison)”Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie63 (2–3): 206–212. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.1983.tb00087.x. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  18. Jump up^ Schjelderup-Ebbe, T. 1922. Beitrage zurSozialpsycholgie des Haushuhns. Zeitschrift Psychologie 88: 225–52. Reprinted in Benchmark Papers in Animal Behaviour/3. Ed. M.W.Schein. 1975
  19. Jump up^ Natalie Angier (1991-11-12). “In Fish, Social Status Goes Right to the Brain – New York Times”. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  20. Jump up^ Wilson, E.O, The Insect Societies (1971) Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
  21. Jump up^ Wilson, E.O, Sociobiology (1975, 2000) Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
  22. Jump up^ Wrangham, R. and Peterson, D. (1996). Demonic males. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-87743-2.
  23. Jump up^ Smuts, B.B., Cheney, D.L. Seyfarth, R.M., Wrangham, R.W., & Struhsaker, T.T. (Eds.) (1987). Primate Societies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-76715-9
  24. Jump up^ Raleigh, Michael J. (1985). “Dominant social status facilitates the behavioral effects of serotonergic agonists”. Brain Res348: 274–82. doi:10.1016/0006-8993(85)90445-7.
  25. Jump up^ “OLMIS – Women in the Labor Force”. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  26. Jump up^ “Digest of Education Statistics, 2007 – Introduction”. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  27. Jump up^ Tony Waters and Dagmar Waters, translators and eds., (2015). Weber’s Rationalism and Modern Society. Palgrave Macmillan.
  28. Jump up^ Waters, Tony and Dagmar Waters 2016 Are the terms “socio-economic status” and “social status” a warped form of reasoning for Max Weber?” Palgrave Communications 2, Article number: 16002 (2016)
  29. Jump up^ Weber 48-56
  30. Jump up to:a b Bourdieu 66
  31. Jump up^ Bourdieu 69
  32. Jump up^ Bourdieu 477
  33. Jump up to:a b Bourdieu 177
  34. Jump up^ Bourdieu 184
  35. Jump up^ Bourdieu 231–32
  36. Jump up^ Bourdieu 75
  37. Jump up to:a b Bourdieu 63
  38. Jump up^ Bourdieu 466
  39. Jump up^ Bourdieu 65
  40. Jump up^ Bourdieu 468
  41. Jump up^ Bourdieu 56
  42. Jump up^ Bourdieu 77
  43. Jump up to:a b c Bourdieu 79
  44. Jump up^ Bourdieu 179
  45. Jump up^ Bourdieu 78
  46. Jump up^ Bourdieu 185

Further reading

  • Botton, Alain De (2004), Status Anxiety, Hamish Hamilton
  • Michael Marmot (2004), The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health and Longevity, Times Books
  • Social status. (2007). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved October 17, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
  • Stark, Rodney (2007). Sociology (10th ed.). Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN 0-495-09344-0.
  • Gould, Roger (2002). “The Origins of Status Hierarchy: A Formal Theory and Empirical Test”. American Journal of Sociology107 (5): 1143–78. doi:10.1086/341744.
  • McPherson, Miller; Smith-Lovin, Lynn; Cook, James M (2001). “Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks”. American Journal of Sociology27: 415–44. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.27.1.415.
  • Bolender, Ronald Keith (2006). “Max Weber 1864–1920”. LLC: Bolender Initiatives. Retrieved 2010-10-15.
  • Chernoff, Seth David (2015). “What is Success”.
  • Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: a Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, translated by Richard Nice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984.
  • Ridgeway, Cecilia (2014). “Why Status Matters for Inequality”. American Sociological Review79 (1): 1–16. doi:10.1177/0003122413515997.
  • Weber, Max (2015) “Classes, Stände, Parties,” pp. 37–58 in Weber’s Rationalism and Modern Society: New Translations on Politics, Bureaucracy, and Social Stratification Edited and Translated by Tony Waters and Dagmar Waters. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


In historic Chilean agriculture an inquilino is a labourer indebted to a landlord who allows him to form a farm in parts of his property

19th century picture of an inquilino (left) and a foreman (right), in Chile, by De Claudio Gay, París, 1854.

In historic Chilean agriculture an inquilino is a labourer indebted to a landlord who allows him to form a farm in parts of his property (usually in the marginal lands to keep away intruders) and who in exchange works without pay for the landlord.[1] The inquilinos provided key manpower to carry out tasks like the gathering of livestock (rodeo) and slaughter. For inquilinos living in wheat-producing regions duties increased as the Chilean wheat cycle went on in from the 18th century onwards.[2] The inquilinaje institution that characterized large parts of Chilean agriculture were eliminated by the Chilean land reform in the 1960s and early 1970s.[3] Historian Mario Góngorahas researched on the history of the inquilinos.[4]

In modern Spanish the word has the same meaning as the English “tenant”.

References for Inquilino

  1. Jump up^ Inquilino >>RAE. Retrieved on July 4 2012.
  2. Jump up^ “Mestizos, inquilinos y vagabundos en Chile Colonial”Memoria Chilena (in Spanish). Biblioteca Nacional de Chile. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  3. Jump up^ Rytkönen, P. Fruits of Capitalism: Modernization of Chilean Agriculture, 1950-2000. Lund Studies in Economic History, 31, p. 43.
  4. Jump up^ “Mario Góngora del Campo (1915-1985)”Memoria Chilena (in Spanish). Biblioteca Nacional de Chile. Retrieved December 30, 2015.

Survival skills in Wilderness

Survival skills are techniques that a person may use in order to sustain life in any type of natural environment. These techniques are meant to provide basic necessities for human life which include waterfood, and shelter. The skills also support proper knowledge and interactions with animals and plants to promote the sustaining of life over a period of time. Survival skills are often associated with the need to survive in a disaster situation.[1] Survival skills are often basic ideas and abilities that ancients invented and used themselves for thousands of years.[2] Outdoor activities such as hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, fishing, and hunting all require basic wilderness survival skills, especially in handling emergency situations. Bushcraft and primitive living are most often self-implemented, but require many of the same skills.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 Astronauts participating in tropical survival training at an Air Force Base near the Panama Canal, 1963. From left to right are an unidentified trainer, Neil ArmstrongJohn H. Glenn, Jr.L. Gordon Cooper, and Pete Conrad. Survival training is important for astronauts, as a launch abort or misguided reentry could potentially land them in a remote wilderness area.

First aid

First aid (wilderness first aid in particular) can help a person survive and function with injuries and illnesses that would otherwise kill or incapacitate him/her. Common and dangerous injuries include:

The survivor may need to apply the contents of a first aid kit or, if possessing the required knowledge, naturally occurring medicinal plants, immobilize injured limbs, or even transport incapacitated comrades.


 Shelter built from tarp and sticks. Pictured are displaced persons from the Sri Lankan Civil War

A shelter can range from a natural shelter, such as a cave, overhanging rock outcrop, or fallen-down tree, to an intermediate form of man-made shelter such as a debris hut, tree pit shelter, or snow cave, to completely man-made structures such as a tarptent, or longhouse.


Making fire is recognized in the sources as significantly increasing the ability to survive physically and mentally. Lighting a fire without a lighter or matches, e.g. by using natural flint and steel with tinder, is a frequent subject of both books on survival and in survival courses. There is an emphasis placed on practicing fire-making skills before venturing into the wilderness. Producing fire under adverse conditions has been made much easier by the introduction of tools such as the solar spark lighter and the fire piston.

One fire starting technique involves using a black powder firearm if one is available. Proper gun safety should be used with this technique to avoid harmful injury or death. The technique includes ramming tinder, like charred cloth or fine wood strands, down the barrel of the firearm until the tinder is against the powder charge. Next, fire the gun up in the air in a safe direction, run and pick up the cloth that is projected out of the barrel with the shot, and then blow it into flame. It works better if you have a supply of tinder at hand so that the cloth can be placed against it to start the fire.[3]

Fire is presented as a tool meeting many survival needs. The heat provided by a fire warms the body, dries wet clothes, disinfects water, and cooks food. Not to be overlooked is the psychological boost and the sense of safety and protection it gives. In the wild, fire can provide a sensation of home, a focal point, in addition to being an essential energy source. Fire may deter wild animals from interfering with a survivor, however wild animals may be attracted to the light and heat of a fire.


 Hydration pack manufactured by Camelbak

A human being can survive an average of three to five days without the intake of water. The issues presented by the need for water dictate that unnecessary water loss by perspiration be avoided in survival situations. The need for water increases with exercise.[4]

A typical person will lose minimally two to maximally four liters of water per day under ordinary conditions, and more in hot, dry, or cold weather. Four to six liters of water or other liquids are generally required each day in the wilderness to avoid dehydration and to keep the body functioning properly.[5] The U.S. Army survival manual does not recommend drinking water only when thirsty, as this leads to underhydrating. Instead, water should be drunk at regular intervals.[6][7] Other groups recommend rationing water through “water discipline”.[8]

A lack of water causes dehydration, which may result in lethargyheadachesdizzinessconfusion, and eventually death. Even mild dehydration reduces endurance and impairs concentration, which is dangerous in a survival situation where clear thinking is essential. Dark yellow or brown urine is a diagnostic indicator of dehydration. To avoid dehydration, a high priority is typically assigned to locating a supply of drinking water and making provision to render that water as safe as possible.

Recent thinking is that boiling or commercial filters are significantly safer than use of chemicals, with the exception of chlorine dioxide.[9][10][11]


Culinary root tubersfruitedible mushroomsedible nuts, edible beans, edible cereals or edible leavesedible mossedible cacti and algae can be searched and if needed, prepared (mostly by boiling). With the exception of leaves, these foods are relatively high in calories, providing some energy to the body. Plants are some of the easiest food sources to find in the jungle, forest or desert because they are stationary and can thus be had without exerting much effort.[12] Skills and equipment (such as bows, snares and nets) are necessary to gather animal food in the wild include animal trappinghunting, and fishing.

Focusing on survival until rescued by presumed searchers, the Boy Scouts of America especially discourages foraging for wild foods on the grounds that the knowledge and skills needed are unlikely to be possessed by those finding themselves in a wilderness survival situation, making the risks (including use of energy) outweigh the benefits.[13]


Survival situations can often be resolved by finding a way to safety, or a more suitable location to wait for rescue. Types of navigation include:

  • Celestial navigation, using the sun and the night sky to locate the cardinal directions and to maintain course of travel
  • Using a mapcompass or GPS receiver
  • Dead reckoning
  • Natural navigation, using the condition of surrounding natural objects (i.e. moss on a tree, snow on a hill, direction of running water, etc.)

Mental preparedness

The mind and its processes are critical to survival. The will to live in a life-and-death situation often separates those that live and those that do not. Stories of heroic feats of survival by regular people with little or no training but a strong will to live are not uncommon. Among them is Juliane Koepcke, who was the sole survivor among the 93 passengers when her plane crashed in the jungle of Peru. Situations can be stressful to the level that even trained experts may be mentally affected. One should be mentally and physically tough during a disaster.

To the extent that stress results from testing human limits, the benefits of learning to function under stress and determining those limits may outweigh the downside of stress.[14] There are certain strategies and mental tools that can help people cope better in a survival situation, including focusing on manageable tasks, having a Plan B available and recognizing denial.[15]

Important survival items

Civilian pilots attending a Survival course at RAF Kinloss learn how to construct shelter from the elements, using materials available in the woodland on the north-east edge of the aerodrome.

Often survival practitioners will carry with them a “survival kit”. This consists of various items that seem necessary or useful for potential survival situations, depending on anticipated challenges and location. Supplies in a survival kit vary greatly by anticipated needs. For wilderness survival, they often contain items like a knife, water container, fire starting apparatus, first aid equipment, food obtaining devices (snare wire, fish hooks, firearms, or other,) a light, navigational aids, and signalling or communications devices. Often these items will have multiple possible uses as space and weight are often at a premium.

Survival kits may be purchased from various retailers or individual components may be bought and assembled into a kit.

Common myths

Some survival books promote the “Universal Edibility Test”.[16] Allegedly, it is possible to distinguish edible foods from toxic ones by a series of progressive exposures to skin and mouth prior to ingestion, with waiting periods and checks for symptoms. However, many experts including Ray Mears and John Kallas[17] reject this method, stating that even a small amount of some “potential foods” can cause physical discomfort, illness, or death.

Many mainstream survival experts have perpetuated the act of drinking urine in times of dehydration.[18] However, the United States Air Force Survival Manual (AF 64-4) instructs that this technique is a myth should never be applied. Several reasons include the high salt content of urine, potential contaminants, and sometimes bacteria growth, despite urine’s being generally “sterile“.

Many classic cowboy movies and even classic survival books suggest that sucking the venom out of a snake bite by mouth is an appropriate treatment. However, once the venom is injected into the blood stream, it cannot be sucked out and it may be dangerous to attempt to do so. If bitten by a venomous snake, the best chance of survival is to get to a hospital for treatment as quickly as possible.[19]

See also



  1. Jump up^ “12 Outdoor Survival Skills Every Guy Should Master”Men’s Fitness. 2017-09-28. Retrieved 2017-09-28.
  2. Jump up^ “Wilderness Survival Skills”. 2017-09-28. Retrieved 2017-09-28.
  3. Jump up^ Churchill, James E. The Basic Essentials of Survival. Merrillville, IN: ICS, 1989. Print.
  4. Jump up^ HowStuffWorks by Charles W. Bryant
  5. Jump up^ Water Balance; a Key to Cold Weather Survival by Bruce Zawalsky, Chief Instructor, BWI
  6. Jump up^ “Army Survival Manual; Chapter 13 – Page 2″. Retrieved 2011-10-21.
  7. Jump up^ “U.S. Army Survival Manual FM 21-76, also known as FM 3-05.70 May 2002 Issue; drinking water”. Retrieved 2011-10-21.
  8. Jump up^ “Water Discipline” at Survival Topics
  9. Jump up^ “US EPA”. Archived from the original on 29 December 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-27.
  10. Jump up^ “Wilderness Medical Society”. Retrieved 2011-10-21.[dead link]
  11. Jump up^ “Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources”. 11 March 2008. Archived from the original on 8 March 2012. Retrieved 2011-10-21.
  12. Jump up^ “Master The Great Outdoors”. Retrieved 2011-10-21.
  13. Jump up^ Wilderness Survival Merit Badge pamphlet, January 2008, at 38
  14. Jump up^ Krieger, Leif. “How to Survive Any Situation”How to Survive Any Situation. Silvercrown Mountain Outdoor School.
  15. Jump up^ Leach, John (1994). Survival Psychology. NYU Press.
  16. Jump up^ US Army Survival Manual FM21-76 1998 Dorset press 9th printing ISBN 1-56619-022-3
  17. Jump up^ John Kallas, Ph.D., Director, Institute for the Study of Edible Wild Plants and Other Foragables. Biography[not in citation given] Archived 13 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. Jump up^ Peterson, Devin (2013). “Effects of Urine Consumption”SCS. DNM International. p. 1. Retrieved 6 August 2013.
  19. Jump up^ Lawson, Malcolm (2013). “Top 10 Survival Myths Busted”SCS. DNM International. p. 1. Archived from the original on 27 April 2015. Retrieved 18 April 2015.

Further reading

Further reading

External links

External links

Citicoline increases glucose metabolism

Citicoline increases glucose metabolism in the brain and cerebral blood flow. [1]

Cocaine dependence is associated with depleted dopamine levels in the central nervous system. In cocaine-dependent individuals citicoline increases brain dopamine levels and reduces cravings.[2]

In the general population citicoline increases brain responses to food stimuli, specifically in the amygdala, insula, and lateral orbitofrontal cortex, which correlate with decreased appetite.[3]

Natural synthesis

The brain prefers to use choline to synthesize acetylcholine. This limits the amount of choline available to synthesize phosphatidylcholine. When the availability of choline is low or the need for acetylcholine increases, phospholipids containing choline can be catabolized from neuronal membranes. These phospholipids include sphingomyelin and phosphatidylcholine. [4]

Food sources of Choline

  • Shrimp
  • Eggs
  • Scallops
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Tuna
  • Cod
  • Salmon
  • Beef
  • Collard Greens

Links for food sources of choline:

Chemical formula




  1. Watanabe S, Kono S, Nakashima Y, Mitsunobu K, Otsuki S (1975). “Effects of various cerebral metabolic activators on glucose metabolism of brain”. Folia Psychiatrica et Neurologica Japonica. 29 (1): 67–76.
  2. Renshaw PF, Daniels S, Lundahl LH, Rogers V, Lukas SE (Feb 1999). “Short-term treatment with citicoline (CDP-choline) attenuates some measures of craving in cocaine-dependent subjects: a preliminary report”. Psychopharmacology. 142 (2): 132–8.
  3. Killgore WD, Ross AJ, Kamiya T, Kawada Y, Renshaw PF, Yurgelun-Todd DA (Jan 2010). “Citicoline affects appetite and cortico-limbic responses to images of high-calorie foods”. The International Journal of Eating Disorders. 43 (1): 6–13.
  4. Adibhatla RM, Hatcher JF, Dempsey RJ (Jan 2002). “Citicoline: neuroprotective mechanisms in cerebral ischemia”. Journal of Neurochemistry. 80 (1): 12–23.

Grains Cause Opiate Effect In The Brain

When you remove wheat, rye and barley you will experience an opiate withdrawl. Things to expect are headaches, exhaustion, fatigue, depression and flu-like symptoms. In fact this withdrawl, or die-off, is often considered an Atkins flu or Paleo flu.

Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly

Foods That Cause Opiate Effect In The Brain

Addicted to milk and wheat.

Habit of Being Defensive

Being emotionally defensive is a bad habit unless there is a war outside.

I’d like to see dominance as leadership and submission as following a leader. Somehow defensive behavior prevents both to lead and to follow. After a while defender stays alone with chronically high cortisol (anxiety) and lack of oxytocin (trust). And the only way out is to binge on bad dopamine and serotonin habits to color the life in the entrenchment a bit.

Potencial followers won’t follow a leader who is taking defensive pose. This individual falls out of any pack sooner or later. No matter who is he trying to be – leader or follower.

Being emotionally defensive. Over Protected Knight. Image from

However, individual might be forced to take the defensive pose. It’s shows up like a curse for example. Spiritual practitioners use a clue in the emotional system to put victim in constant anxiety. Person do not know what he is defending and against whom. Long term stress depletes body. Individual is unable to lead productive life. He is always on alarm and defend something. Emotional chemistry works like there is a war outside. Serious health problems comes with in 10 years of being in “entrenchment” or sooner.

None Defensive Social Strategies

Emotional defensiveness might be replaced with either dominance (leadership) or submission (following a leader) in order to turn defensive anxiety off.

Defensiveness is like a middle stage of person’s social hierarchy positioning.

Being defensive illustrates instability of social status. It is crucial to have stable emotional connection with a social group. This helps calm the anxiety down.

  1. To take dominant position individual should always act by adding a value and space to his and other people lives. And to be patient waiting they choose to follow him.
  2. To take submissive position its enough to serve someone honestly. Over all the right way is to leave some profit of everything that comes in touch.
  • However in real life defensive people fall into binge of dopamine inducing habits. These are use of sweets, alcohol, drugs, watching TV, surfing internet, playing videogames. Use of verbal proofing of their value, criticizing and blaming of others, being cynic etc.. All of this stuff just to feel independent while defending a unreal entrenchment.

The Causes of Defensiveness

People react defensively because they anticipate or perceive a threat in their environment.

Defensive communication expert Jack Gibbs outlines six behavioral categories that create defensive responses in people:

  1. Dogmatism – Black and white, I’m right and you’re wrong, either/or, and other kinds of all or nothing thinking and communication cause people to react defensively.
  2. Lack of accountability – Shifting blame, making excuses, and rationalizing behavior leads people to raise their defense levels.
  3. Controlling/Manipulative – Using all sorts of behaviors to control or manipulate people will lead to defensive behavior.
  4. Guarded/Withholding Information – When people feel like they are being left in the dark or purposely excluded from having information they should know, they are threatened and will react defensively.
  5. Superiority – Want someone to be defensive? Then act like you’re better than him/her, lord your power, knowledge, or position over them and see how they respond.
  6. Critical – A constant focus on catching people doing something wrong, rather than right, creates a climate of defensiveness.

How to Deal With Other People’s Defensive Behavior

Some people’s defensiveness is so deeply rooted in their behavioral patterns that there is little realistic chance they will permanently change. However, there are some helpful strategies we can use to deal with defensiveness:

  • Re-frame the behavior – Explore why the person is feeling threatened and work to address the threat(s). One of the reasons we get so frustrated with defensive people is we try to deal with the behavior without addressing the threat that is causing the behavior.
  • Reduce the danger – Once you’ve identified the threat(s) causing the defensive behavior, work to reduce the perceived danger. Be moderate in your tone, even-tempered, empathize with their concerns, be respectful, and respond non-defensively to avoid escalating tensions.
  • Replace negative feedback with questions or offers to help – If you have to regularly deal with someone who reacts defensively, you’ve probably noticed that the slightest bit of negative feedback sets them off. Replace the negative feedback with a question or an offer to help.
    For example, instead of saying “Sally, you made a mistake on this report,” rephrase it by saying “Sally, I’m not sure I understand this section on the report. Could you help me figure it out?”

    Remember, a person acts defensively because he/she perceives a threat. Try to make the situation non-threatening.

  • Avoid forced choice – The less people feel boxed in to either/or, yes/no, right/wrong choices, the less threatening the situation.
  • Treat people with humility – Approach other people in a collaborative manner, looking for ways to help them win in the situation. Take time to identify and recognize their needs, discover what’s important to them, and validate their concerns.

Defensiveness destroys relationships from the inside-out. It creates a climate of contention and tension that eventually leads to a loss of trust, alienation, and separation. Identifying the root of defensiveness in our relationships, and working toward addressing and removing those issues, will help improve the overall quality and the productivity of our relationships.

Search for more of being defensive on Google >>

Social Status – 9 tips to raise it

Exposing higher Social Status

  1. Expose confidence. For social status it means the right way to do something is the way you are doing it. Pretend you have no errors. If someone points to an error – ignore it with even more confidence.
  2. Ignore others around you. The highest social status goes for someone who is followed by all others of the group. Leader looks forward beyond the borders or a particular follower. However this is only to fool a strayed sheep. when you are not the leader de facto, but wants to use it’s privileges of high social status person.
  3. Keep your shoulders down and legs together. Eliminate all submissive gestures off of your image.
  4. If you gaze away first – don’t look back, ignore that person to save your status and your life if that’s a polar bear.
  5. Keep your head still when talking. Stillness is the sign of confidence.

Social Status seeker begs for help

Building social status

  1. Don’t share your attention with a attention demander outside your focus and your social group. Even it is a gratitude towards you, it might be just a deliberate emotional attack to make you overconfident and act like fool. Keep focused on your aims no mater what.
  2. Never be defensive or binge on proofing your ideas. Ignore, attack or show your loyalty to opponent.
  3. Create steady pressure to others by taking their attention to you.
  4. Give presents and share attention to your followers and your leader as well. Otherwise they might fall into the ADHD. Blocking attention to followers is widely practiced social tactics in black psychology used by wizards, healers, fortune-tellers and other social magic staff.

Suggested Books for Social status:

  1. Loretta Graziano Breuning “I’mammal“ why your brain links status and happiness.
  2. Cesar Millan “Be the Pack Leader
  3. Keith Johnstone “Impro – improvisation and the theatre“

Anxiety prevention: the Wind-mill model

Social Dominance lab has created the Emotion wind-mill model to help visualize and understand anxiety and how to avoid it. Model also gives a clue of influence of other people. How to protect yourself from emotional harm. And how to be socially successful and happy at the end of the day.

Anxiety prevention - emotion wind-mill model

Faster the speed – stress to a particular blade, bigger the imbalance of the emotional system. High speed and balance is possible only with steady wind on all blades and optimal tail work to catch the wind (focus attention).

For example: Eating sweets creates stress on dopamine blade, than to serotonin blade. When the blood sugar drops – to cortisol blade. As stress isn’t simultaneous to all three blades, imbalance occurs. It progresses to anxiety by next attempts to eat more sweets to reduce bad feelings of rising cortisol and so on.

Overall balance of emotion system

  1. [toggle title=’Avoid any mood affecting medication.’] To ensure all systems – neurotransmitters and hormones are working accordingly.[/toggle]
  2. [toggle title=’Keep your blood sugar low (normal).’] This would keep you out of unnecessary spikes of all neurotransmitters and hormones what might lead to physical and mental imbalance.
    1. Avoid any product containing sugar and sugar itself.
    2. Avoid bread and all breadstuffs.
    3. Avoid coffee.
    4. Avoid baked vegetables, potatoes.
    5. Do not eat anything 3 hours before sleep.
    6. Take 16 hour fast during the 24 h cycle.


  3. [toggle title=’Exercise for physical and mental balance.’] This would optimize cortisol dosage on stress triggers. And also might help to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.[/toggle]
  4. [toggle title=’Play status games against people and place.’]
    Playing status will allow consciously adjust low or high status attitude to a particular people according to your aims. Also it allows to notice when your autopilot and prevailing behavior takes over. [/toggle]

Emotion chemistry

  1. [toggle title=’Attention focus & trust (oxytocin)’]
    Playing low status role Playing high status role
    [toggle title=’Follow a good leader’]

    1. Father
    2. God
    3. Friend


    [toggle title=’Spot all bad leaders you are following’]

    1. Change their attitude towards you by getting attention.
    2. Leave them.


    1. [toggle title=’Be a good leader.’] Be steady and balanced, give guidelines, rewards and attention to your followers.
      1. Expose yourself, be a star, catch the attention
      2. Give guidelines – oxytocin
      3. Create some stress – cortisol
      4. Give rewards – dopamine
      5. Give attention – serotonin to followers


    2. [toggle title=’Create stress to others.’]Steady, mild and lasting stress would force them to build trust to you if done properly.[/toggle]
    3. [toggle title=’Be still and stand out’] Let make focusing attention on you easier. This would help to build trust to you.[/toggle]
  2. Activity (Cortisol)
    Cortisol is the main steroid hormone. It is scarce resource. You might pull up a car and go without sleep and rest for days. So, saving this rocket fuel is highly significant.
  1. Take the cold shower or swimming. This is the hard way to put your stress reaction back on track.
  • Motivation (Dopamine)
    Aims for balancing dopamine focuses mainly on reducing it by putting limits on binge, obsessive and addictive behavior.
  1. Practise moderation. Avoid binging on anything.
  2. Stick to plan and order
  • Confidence (Serotonin). The aim of serotonin is to get social status. The more attention you get the higher your status feels.
    1. Get the attention.
      1. Automaticity: use colors, symbols, and sounds.
      2. Framing: use tradition, repetition and create scarcity
      3. Disruption: disrupt, like Mr. Bean for example 🙂
        1. surprise,
        2. simplicity,
        3. significance.
      4. Reward: give rewards and prizes, solve people’s short-term problems, boost their dopamine.
      5. Reputation: show reputable leaders as your leaders.
      6. Mystery: Create a little mystery, suspense, and uncertainty.
      7. Acknowledgment: help people to become acknowledged what is opposite to ignorance.
      8. Ignorance. Ignore target people. Don’t do this at home! This is an evil one. Easy and innocent way to completely imbalance someone’s emotion system.
      9. Eye contact: Get the eye contact.
        1. Try to spot opponent first.
        2. Wait until opponent stares away giving you dominant position.
        3. Stare away to expose submission to opponent.
    2. Protect your attention. Do not allow to be plugged to wrong kind of things. This would develop your social status.
  • Growth and expansion (Endorphines)
    1. Take more space. Do not allow others to block you if possible. This would suppress stress reaction and give nice endorphin and testosterone happiness.
    2. Block spatial expansion of others.
    3. Take tall and dominant posture like a tree. Legs together! Wide position of legs exposures your nervousness and imbalance, thus you aren’t dominant.


Explanation of Anxiety overcoming tips

We are currently working on explanation for each of the Anxiety prevention tips above. Some of them requires special training and knowledge to apply properly and harmlessly. It’s about making real emotion magic with socially affectable chemistry provided by mother nature.

Suggested books:

  1. Loretta Graziano Breuning “I’mammal
  2. Cesar Millan “Be the Pack Leader
  3. Keith Johnstone “Impro
  4. Ben Parr, “Captivology
  5. . . .

Ignorance or Giving someone a Cold Shoulder!

Ignorance by someone important in their life is the commonest reasons for patients to have depression and anxiety.

The silent treatment or cold shoulder as its more popularly is when someone stops talking, starts ignoring and avoids social interactions with you.

Cold Shoulder
Picture from:

Its one of the most ancient forms of psychological techniques used to express discontent against someone not listening or full-filling your expectations.

One of the most common uses of the same is a parent ignoring a naughty kid.

In modern day, it has transformed from a simple psychological technique to a form of “psychological manipulation”.

Why is Silent treatment so important?

The success and happiness of most human being depends on society. How they are treated by their parents, spouses, relatives, friends, boss, fellow employees, etc.

The more importance a particular relationship has, the more the power of the silent treatment.

For example – when the ambani brothers were giving each other a cold shoulder during social gatherings it became instant national news.
Actors who dislike each other, decide to ignore the presence of the other.

Why is silent treatment done?

Why do people tend to ignore others –

  1. Its a way to hurt other person without indulging in aggressive behavior.
  2. One gets an excuse to avoid caring, respect or value of the other person.
  3. Sensitive personalities are easily hurt and its the worst form of emotional abuse they are subjected to.. it instantly shows in their behavior.
  4. The perpetrator can easily see the depression, restlessness, anger and low self-esteem it causes in the victim.

Neural mechanisms of social dominance


In a group setting, individuals’ perceptions of their own level of dominance or of the dominance level of others, and the ability to adequately control their behavior based on these perceptions are crucial for living within a social environment. Recent advances in neural imaging and molecular technology have enabled researchers to investigate the neural substrates that support the perception of social dominance and the formation of a social hierarchy in humans. At the systems’ level, recent studies showed that dominance perception is represented in broad brain regions which include the amygdala, hippocampus, striatum, and various cortical networks such as the prefrontal, and parietal cortices. Additionally, neurotransmitter systems such as the dopaminergic and serotonergic systems, modulate and are modulated by the formation of the social hierarchy in a group. While these monoamine systems have a wide distribution and multiple functions, it was recently found that the Neuropeptide B/W contributes to the perception of dominance and is present in neurons that have a limited projection primarily to the amygdala. The present review discusses the specific roles of these neural regions and neurotransmitter systems in the perception of dominance and in hierarchy formation.

Keywords: social hierarchy, amygdala, striatum, prefrontal cortex, parietal cortex, monoamine systems, NPB/W system


The perception of social rank is a very important skill that must be exercised during daily human interactions. Whether at work, school, or home, humans consciously or unconsciously alter their attitudes by adapting themselves to the social status of others. The misinterpretation or ignorance of the social dominance ranking of an individual may lead to serious consequences, such as exclusion from a social group. Recently, the field of social neuroscience has begun to study the neural substrates that underlie social dominance and the formation of social hierarchies using a number of approaches, including a variety of animal models and brain imaging methods in humans.

The definition of social dominance varies according to the researcher. In the field of personality psychology, Schutz (1958) first described the human characteristics of dominance as one dimension of interpersonal personality using the term “control” which may be defined as the tendency to control or be controlled by others. Similarly other researchers described dominance as the motivation for control (Gough, 1975; Ellyson and Dovidio, 1985; Dépret and Fiske, 1993; Berger, 1994; Burgoon et al., 1998; Burgoon and Dunbar,2000; Keltner et al., 2003). In these studies, dominance is defined as a personality trait which involves a motive to control others, the self-perception of oneself as controlling others, and/or a behavioral outcome resulting from these motives or perceptions (for a review, see Hall et al., 2005).

In the psychological field of emotion, dominance is included as a factor that defines emotion. For example, Mehrabian proposed a temperament model in which human emotion can be described using a three-dimensional model that includes Pleasure-Displeasure, Arousal-Calm, and Dominance-Submissiveness (the PAD theory; Mehrabian, 1972, 1996; Russell and Mehrabian, 1977). Moreover, he described dominance as one of the principle features used to evaluate one’s own emotion. In the PAD theory, the Dominance-Submissiveness axis is defined as a feeling of control and influence over one’s surroundings and others vs. a feeling of being controlled or influenced by one’s surroundings and others. This definition is similar to that by personality psychology.

Thus, in the evaluation of personality traits and emotions, dominance is often associated with the concept of control. Therefore, the present review defines dominance as a mental state in which one feels that he/she is superior to and in control of others, or is inferior to and under the control by others. This definition can be applied if a subject compares two people’s relative ranks based on the observation which is superior to and in control of the other. The definition can also be extended to non-human animal by observing specific behaviors such as the expression of aggression or submissiveness, or ranking of food access (Bekoff, 1977; Zumpe and Michael, 1986; Santos et al., 2012).

Social hierarchy and dominance

Social hierarchy is a form of the expression of dominance that is observed in a variety of animal species that develop communal systems, from fish to primates (Paz-Y-Mino et al., 2004; Grosenick et al., 2007; Byrne and Bates, 2010). Several aspects of behavior, including food acquisition and breeding, are influenced by social hierarchy and, in fact, some species exhibit morphological changes according to their hierarchical rank within a society. For instance, flanges (cheek-pads) appear on the face of a male orangutan only when that individual is physically strong and socially dominant (Mackinnon, 1974; Kuze et al., 2005). However, social rank-induced changes are not limited to physical appearance, and a number of social signals related to dominance influence the activity of brain systems (Sapolsky, 2005).

Human social systems have also evolved based on social hierarchy, which have emerged to increase the probability of survival in hazardous situations. If a group functions as well as, and similar to, a single organic system, then that group can achieve far more than a lone individual. For this to occur, individuals are generally required to function under a single control center and a component of hierarchical information processing. In animal societies, physical strength tends to determine social rank but in human societies it is not only physical strength but also cognitive factors such as intelligence and emotional stability that determine his/her social ranking (Hall et al., 2005). In humans, recent study (Cook et al., 2014) reported that there are two types in dominant personalities; one they named social dominance and the other aggressive dominance. The former rely on persuading others by reasoning, and the latter uses aggression, threat, deceit and flattery. Although strategies are different, both types have a motivation to control others and understand their hierarchical relationships for the control. In human children, the concept of dominance develops at around the age of 10 months, which is prior to language acquisition, and children of that age can distinguish the dominance of two agents based on body size (Thomsen et al., 2011). At the age of 15 months, children can infer whether an individual is dominant or not based on their previous subjective experiences (Mascaro and Csibra, 2012). Thus, in a human society, the dominance is perceived by a simple physical factor such as the body size, however, the learning experiences based on interactions with other individuals, or on observation of other individuals’ interactions within a social framework seem to be incorporated into the conceptual formation of dominance and a social hierarchy. Furthermore, humans learn that a social dominance hierarchy is a set of implicit social norms that guide behavior according to social status (Cummins, 2000).

Recently, the neural substrates underlying the perception of social dominance have been studied in humans using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In the present review, the neural structures and learning processes that are involved in the perception of dominance in a group setting mainly by this method, and mechanism that may work for the maintenance of dominant position after social hierarchy formation are summarized.

Facial expression and dominance

During direct (face-to-face) communication, an individual can perceive the social status or hierarchical rank of other individuals in a social group through various clues. An individual tends to alter their behavior based on the relative social rank of the other compared to his/her own rank. One clue that may aid in the judgment of another individual’s social rank is facial expressions.

Wiggins proposed the interpersonal circumplex model with two-axis concept of Valence and Dominance/Power for the evaluation of interpersonal behavior. (Wiggins, 1979; Wiggins et al., 1989). Results of Oosterhof and Todorov (2008) supported Wiggins’ model. They examined the impressions of participants during the observation of a variety of human faces. To avoid the emotional component inherent in facial expressions, they used photographs of neutral faces with no clear emotional expression. The participants were asked to describe their impressions of the neutral faces on a scale from 1 to 9 using 15 adjective rating measures that included terms such as “attractive,” “weird,” “mean,” and “trustworthy” and they identified independent facial features using principle component analysis. Two orthogonal (independent) axes were extracted: Valence and Dominance/Power. Oosterhof and Todorov concluded that people typically evaluate the faces of others based on whether they appear favorable (Valence axis: high scores of trustworthiness, emotionally stable, and responsible) or whether the person is dominant (superior) to the participant (Dominance/Power axis: high scores for dominant, confident, and aggressive). Thus, they suggested that one of factors that determines interpersonal relationship is Dominance/Power.

Similarly in the field of psychology of emotion, Russell and Mehrabian (1977) proposed a three-dimensional theory which is defined by the axes of Valence, Arousal, and Dominance. However, Russell (1980) later removed the Dominance axis and defined emotion using only the Valence and Arousal axes in his “Circumplex model.” Recently, using pictures of emotional faces to evaluate the evoked emotional state of the observer, Watanabe et al. (2012) found that the three-dimensional model of Valence-Arousal-Dominance provided a better explanation of the observers’ emotional perception of faces than the two-dimensional Valence-Arousal model. In this experiment, the participants were presented with four types of emotional faces that were classified into four categories: angry, fearful, happy, and neutral (from NimStim face stimulus set by Tottenham et al., 2009). The Self-Assessment Manikin Scale (Bradley and Lang, 1994), which is based on the three-factor theory of Russell and Mehrabian (1977; see also Mehrabian, 1996), was used to assess emotions experienced by participants. They rated each picture according to the intensity of their emotional reaction for each of the three scales (Valence, Arousal, and Dominance) on a nine-point scale (from −4 to +4 with 0 as a neutral point). After plotting all of the ratings in either a two-dimensional or three-dimensional space, a discrimination analysis was used to determine whether each stimulus could be differentially reclassified into one of the original four categories (Figure (Figure11).

Figure 1

Two- and three-dimensional plots of affective space for the evaluation of facial expressions. (A) Two-dimensional plots (Valence and Arousal) based on the circumplex model of subjective emotion (Russell, 1980) demonstrating poor discrimination during

When the evaluation scores were plotted using the two-axis model (Valence-Arousal), the happy and neutral faces were discriminated with 100% accuracy but 25% of the angry faces were misclassified as fearful faces and 18.8% of the fearful faces were misclassified as angry faces (Figure (Figure1A).1A). In contrast, when the three-dimension model (Valence-Arousal-Dominance) was used, all stimuli fell into four separate clusters and the angry and fearful faces as well as happy and neutral faces were each discriminated with 100% accuracy (Figure (Figure1B).1B). Thus, when an individual encounters an angry or fearful face, the Valence and Arousal assessments may be similar because both types of stimuli are alarming and not readily likeable. However, if the Dominance axis is included in the assessment, then the angry faces are clearly differentiated and described as intimidating while fearful faces do not evoke a feeling of intimidation. Thus, it seems more appropriate to include the Dominance dimension when evaluating the emotional reaction of an individual to human faces. These results indicate that one of factors that people use for evaluating their own social ranks is others’ facial expressions, and suggested that brain areas that are involved in emotional information processing of face such as amygdala may also play important roles in the perception of dominance.

In the following sections, the manner in which the perception of dominance is coded in various brain regions, particularly the cortical and subcortical systems (Section Neural Substrates of Social Dominance), and how neurotransmitter systems influence the formation and maintenance of a social hierarchy (Section Neurotransmitters Involved in social dominance and hierarchy formation) are described.

Neural substrates of social dominance

In the last decade, researchers in the field of neuroscience have attempted to decipher the neural mechanisms that support behaviors in the social domain (review by Singer, 2012). For example, the brain regions that are activated when an individual assesses the hierarchical relationship between him/herself and another individual or two other individuals have been studied in various contexts (see Table Table1).1). It is important to note that the experimental stimuli and/or behavioral measurements used in each study vary and, as a result, the neural activation patterns observed among these studies tend to differ based on the stimulus parameters and experimental conditions. However, these studies have consistently identified several brain regions as involved in the perception and learning of social dominance, including the amygdala, the hippocampus, the striatum, the intraparietal sulcus (IPS), the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), and the lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC).

Table 1

Summary of the brain regions related to social dominance.

The amygdala

The amygdala is generally considered as the center of emotional responsiveness (Ledoux, 2007). Additionally, this brain region has high sensitivity to social information such as trustworthiness and social rewards (Adolphs, 2010). The first study to investigate the function of the amygdala in terms of the social behavior of non-human primates (Rosvold et al., 1954) found that high-ranking monkeys with surgical lesions of the amygdala lost their status in the social dominance hierarchy and became extremely submissive. Later studies showed that monkeys with selective bilateral lesions of the amygdala were insensitive to threatening social signals (Machado and Bachevalier, 2006) and had shorter contact latencies with novel monkeys than did controls (Emery et al., 2001).

Consistent with findings from primates, a human patient with bilateral lesions of the amygdala (Urbach-Wiethe disease) exhibited inappropriate social judgments (in terms of approachability and the trustworthiness of unfamiliar individuals) and failed to maintain employment throughout her life (Adolphs et al., 1995, 1998). In humans, interpersonal distance is one recognizable measure of non-verbal social dominance (Hall et al.,2005). Likewise, patients with amygdala damage tend to lack any sense of interpersonal distance. For example, the measured comfortable interpersonal distance of a patient with amygdala lesion was 0.34 m whereas that of controls was 0.76 m (Kennedy et al., 2009). Additionally, fMRI results from that study revealed that the blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) signal from the amygdala of healthy controls increased when the participant knew an experimenter was close to the scanner (and, thus, to him/her) compared to when the experimenter was far from the scanner. These findings suggest that the amygdala is also involved in sensing the interpersonal distance, which is an indicator of social dominance perception in terms of territory.

Activity in the amygdala can also be modulated by factors such as the nature of a hierarchy (stable or unstable) or the context of a ranking (social or unsocial). Zink et al. (2008) investigated dominance-related brain activity using virtual game rankings that were indicated by stars near the face of each player. Each participant was assigned to the middle rank and required to win the game when he/she played against either a superior or inferior player under two conditions: the stable hierarchy condition in which the ranking of the participant did not change and the unstable hierarchy condition in which the ranking of they could move up or down according to the result of the game. As results, only during the unstable hierarchy game, the amygdala was activated to a greater degree by stimuli associated with superior-ranked players than by those associated with inferior-ranked ones (Zink et al., 2008). Furthermore, changes in the BOLD signal in the amygdala were correlated with the participant’s subjective ratings of their positive feelings following a win against a superior player.

There is also one evidence demonstrating the involvement of the amygdala during the inference of social ranking. Kumaran et al. (2012) investigated the learning processes associated with social hierarchy and the related alterations in brain activity using fMRI. They introduced “inference score index” as a proxy for the evaluation of the level of hierarchical knowledge. During the learning session of the experiment, their participants were required to learn the hierarchical structure of the social ranks of people in a group, and galaxy ranks depending on mineral content which represents non-social rank as a scientific fiction story. As correctness of their answers were feed-backed, they could learn the ranking of the person or galaxy in a gradual manner. In the testing session, the participants were required to determine the hierarchical rank of two people and indicate their level of confidence in their answer using a scale from 1 (guess) to 3 (very sure); the inference score index was calculated by multiplying the correctness of the response (0 or 1) with subjective the confidence rating (1, 2, or 3). As the learning session progressed, the inference scores of them increased and, thus, the inference score index could be used as a proxy for the level of hierarchical knowledge attained by a subject during the learning phase. They found that bilateral activation of the amygdala (and the anterior hippocampi) was correlated with the confidence level of the social ranking inferences, but not the non-social ranking inferences. After learning both the social and non-social rankings, the participants engaged in two types of game; “bid trial” game and “control trial” game. In the bid trials, they were required to use their knowledge about the person (social) and the galaxy (non-social) hierarchies to decide how much money to invest in potential projects whose success probabilities depended solely on the sum of both of these ranks. In this situation, higher rankings in each category were associated with greater participants’ motivation. During the investing phase of this game, activation of the amygdala was correlated only with social ranking, whereas VMPFC and posterior hippocampal activation were positively correlated with both social and non-social rankings. However, in the “control trials” in which they simply compared the both categories of the stimuli without making an investment, there is no significant correlation between non-social rank and the amygdala activation. These findings suggest that social ranking information encoded in the amygdala is modulated by motivational inputs (amount of rewards). This notion is consistent with the findings of Zink et al. (2008) because in that study the amygdala was activated only when the participants had a strong motivation to win the game and had the opportunity to be a superior player. Thus, activity in the amygdala likely represents the learning processes that are specific to determining a social hierarchy and can be modulated by motivational input.

In addition to these activity change during the perception of ranking, morphological difference by voxel-based morphometry (VBM) also showed relationship between the amygdala and social dominance. Kumaran et al. (2012) investigated the relationship between the learning of a social hierarchy and the morphological features of the amygdala. They found that individual differences in gray matter volume in the amygdala were correlated with social inference performance such that a higher inference score was associated with a larger amygdala volume. Similar morphological difference in amygdala was observed in macaque monkeys. Noonan et al. (2014) reported that individual social status in the group were positively correlated with their amygdala size. Thus, the amygdala seems to be involved in the formation and maintenance of a social hierarchy as well as the perception and learning of social dominance.

The hippocampus

Kumaran et al. (2012) also described the differential roles of the anterior and posterior hippocampi during social and non-social ranking tasks in conjunction with amygdala-specific activity that was associated with the level of confidence of subjective inferences regarding social rank. Activation of the anterior hippocampus, which has strong anatomical connections with the amygdala (Aggleton, 1986; Saunders et al.,1988), was correlated with individual level of confidence in their inferences of social, but not non-social, rankings while posterior hippocampal activity was correlated with that of both social and non-social rankings. Similarly, Zink et al. (2008) found that activity in the parahippocampal cortex, the reported coordinates of which were similar to those of the posterior hippocampus in Kumaran et al. (2012), was modulated in both social and non-social contexts.

The striatum

The striatum codes value, saliency, and reward-prediction-error signals (Schultz et al., 1992; Tremblay et al.,1998; Breiter et al., 2001; Knutson et al., 2001; McClure et al., 2003; O’Doherty et al., 2003, 2004; Samejima et al., 2005; Matsumoto and Hikosaka, 2009). Zink et al. (2008) used a simple reaction time task to assess the role of the striatum during the perception of dominance. As described in Section The Amygdala, in their experiment, participants competed in terms of reaction speed with other players, whose pictures were displayed together with their ranking indicators. The fMRI findings of Zink et al. (2008) show that viewing the face of a higher-ranked opponent elicited a greater degree of activity in the ventral striatum than when viewing the face of a lower-ranked opponent, regardless of whether this was in a social (vs. a human player) or non-social (vs. a computer player) context. The authors concluded that activation of the ventral striatum is derived from the assignment of a greater value or salience to a higher-status player. They also found that the striatum was activated to the greatest degree when participants were informed of their win or loss and when they defeated a superior human player (social context). However, this activation did not occur when participants defeated a superior computer player (non-social context). This raised the question of how such a specific type of striatal activation was elicited by social context. Generally, people are highly sensitive to rewards in competitive social situations (Fliessbach et al., 2007; Bault et al., 2011) and, accordingly, the participants in Zink et al. (2008) reported a greater motivation to win when playing a human player compared to a computer. Thus, context-dependent activity in the striatum may reflect motivational differences when an individual is competing against a human rather than a computer, and against a higher-ranked opponent rather than a lower-ranked one.

Striatal activity is also affected by the subjective sensitivity of a participant to gains and losses and by their current emotional state (Tom et al., 2007; Delgado et al., 2008; Watanabe et al., 2013). Consistent with this notion, Ly et al. (2011) found that striatal activation is dependent on the subjective social status of a participant based on socioeconomic rank and the statuses of other people according to the MacArthur Scale of Subjective Social Status (Adler et al., 2000). Their fMRI results revealed that striatal activity was dependent on the interaction of the individual status and that of the stimulus such that high-status individuals exhibited a greater striatal response to high-status information and low-status individuals exhibited a greater striatal response to low-status information. Thus, striatal activity may code social ranking based on a skewed sensitivity, which peaks around the hierarchical status of the participant.

The intraparietal sulcus (IPS)

In primates, the perception of dominance as it is related to attentional orienting seems to be associated with the IPS. A behavioral study of male rhesus macaques found that visual orienting decisions were influenced by the social status of a particular stimulus (Deaner et al., 2005). In the study, the monkeys performed a visual-choice task in which gaze-shifting to one target (T1) delivered only juice whereas gaze-shifting to another target (T2) delivered juice as well as the display of an image, which was the familiar face of either a superior or inferior monkey. The substitutability of the image and the fluid rewards were estimated by varying the amount of juice that was delivered following the choice of either T1 or T2. The findings show that the monkeys allocated a higher value to watching superior monkey images than inferior monkey images. Electrophysiological evidence supporting these behavioral findings was later observed in the lateral intraparietal area (LIP), which is the lateral inferior aspect of the IPS in macaque monkeys (Klein et al.,2008). These authors found that neurons in the LIP exhibited higher firing rate when subjects chose the face of a superior monkey compared to the face of an inferior monkey. Interestingly, there was no modulation of the firing rate when a single target was presented and no choice was necessary. These data demonstrate that LIP neurons represent value within a social hierarchy during the active decision-making of a monkey.

Similarly, although there is some disagreement regarding the topological and functional homologies of the monkey IPS (Culham and Kanwisher, 2001; Mars et al., 2011), several fMRI studies of humans also have identified the involvement of the IPS during the perception of dominance. Activity in the bilateral occipital and parietal cortices is significantly greater when participants view a superior player compared to an inferior player when there is no change in hierarchy (Zink et al., 2008). It is known that IPS is involved during magnitude judgments, such as in a number-comparison task that requires participants to judge which of a pair of digits is larger (Dehaene et al., 2003). In that fMRI experiment, the IPS exhibited a greater degree of activation (and a longer reaction time) during the comparison of a number pair with a close distance than during a number pair with a far distance (and a shorter reaction time). Chiao et al. (2009) hypothesized that this IPS-mediated magnitude effect would be observed not only during the comparison of numbers but also during the comparison of social hierarchy relationships. Their study revealed that IPS activity was modulated by social status indicators such as cars, the medals of military officers or the face of the officers. Furthermore, a greater degree of activity was observed in the IPS when the hierarchical difference between two stimuli was close than when the difference was far. Thus, in IPS, information of “rank” regardless its content (social or non-social) might be processed in the similar way as information processing of “magnitude.”

The ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC)

Some studies have indicated that the VMPFC may play a specific role for perceiving dominant cues (Karafin et al., 2004; Marsh et al., 2009). For example, patients with VMPFC lesions treated the head of the department, a postdoctoral student, and an undergraduate summer intern at a hospital equally, which suggests that these patients were relatively inattentive to social hierarchy cues (Karafin et al., 2004). These patients (n= 15) were also asked to evaluate social dominance based on pictures of faces but their mean dominance ratings did not differ from those of a control group. However, the standard deviation of the ratings was significantly smaller in the VMPFC-lesion group than in the control group. The authors of the study suggested that, rather than being incapable of making social dominance judgments, the patients with VMPFC lesions were less sensitive to the social value of specific perceptual cues such as age and gender.

In Kumaran’s experiment (2012), the inference score index for both the social and non-social rankings (see Section The Amygdala for detail) were correlated with the activity in the VMPFC. However, specific roles of VMPFC in dominance perception still need to be clarified.

The lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC)

LPFC has been shown to play an important role in the perception of “social” dominance. Zink et al. (2008) investigated social dominance related brain activity using virtual game rankings with stable and unstable contexts (see Section The Amygdala for detail). In both conditions, there was a significantly stronger activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC; Brodmann Area [BA] 9 and 46) when the participants observed the face of a higher-ranking player compared to when they observed the face of a lower-ranking player.

In a similar study, Marsh et al. (2009) measured brain activity in response to non-verbal stimuli (brow position, open–closed posture, direct–indirect gaze, and outwardly–inwardly gesture) that were indicative of the dominance level of an individual (dominant, equal, or submissive to the participant) in a picture. The DLPFC (BA 46) and the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC; BA 47) exhibited higher activation in response to a picture with a posture that reflected high social dominance compared to those showing equal or lower social dominance.

Both of these experiments indicate that the observation of a relatively dominant human induces a greater degree of activity in the lateral prefrontal cortices. Interestingly, Zink et al. (2008) also found that the social rank-induced differences in brain activation disappeared when their participants were informed that the superior/dominant player was a computer and not a real human. This implies that rank-associated differences in lateral prefrontal activity are specific to human social hierarchies. A similar specificity of activation to social hierarchy by the VLPFC (BA 47) was observed by Farrow et al. (2011). In this study, the VLPFC showed higher activity when their participants were asked to compare the social status of people in pictures than when they were asked to compare the magnitude of digits.

The manner in which this specificity emerges in the LPFC is unknown but the attentional system may be partly associated with this phenomenon. Several reports have found that the LPFC is involved in the attention systems of both humans (Desimone and Duncan, 1995; Miller and Cohen, 2001) and monkeys (Emery,2000; Deaner et al., 2005) and that more attention is paid to hierarchically superior persons (or monkeys) than to inferior ones. In contrast, a non-social context may not induce this large degree of modulation of attentional intensity based on hierarchical differences. The greater activity observed in the LPFC during social interaction with socially dominant persons might reflect the intensity of attention.

An alternative explanation is that the LPFC processes information that is specific to social situations. For example, Spitzer et al. (2007) found that the LPFC (especially the right DLPFC) played an important role in social norm compliance during the performance of a game in which a participant could distribute money units freely to others under two conditions: a control condition in which there was no punishment if they behaved unfairly, and a punishment condition in which the subject could lose money as a punishment if they behaved unfairly. In this task, there was a greater degree of activation in the right DLPFC (BA 9 and 46) in the punishment condition compared to the control condition but this difference disappeared when the participants were instructed that the other player was a computer. Ruff et al. (2013) showed that social norm compliance levels could be modulated when transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) was applied to the right LPFC. This technique was effective in social contexts but not in non-social contexts. Thus, social norms may be coded in the LPFC and, because social hierarchy is one aspect of social norms (Cummins, 2000), the signals to enhance normative behavior may increase when exposed to a hierarchically dominant person.

Although these findings support the involvement of both the DLPFC (Zink et al., 2008; Marsh et al., 2009) and VLPFC (Chiao et al., 2009; Marsh et al., 2009; Farrow et al., 2011) in the perception of dominance, the functional differences between the VLPFC and DLPFC remain slightly confusing. This may be due to inconsistencies in the definitions of the DLPFC and the VLPFC or to the fact that a variety of experimental tasks were employed from study to study and, as a result, a direct comparison of these regions is not possible. Accordingly, the DLPFC and VLPFC likely engage in different cognitive demands (Hon et al., 2012; for review Duncan and Owen, 2000; Elliott, 2003). Regardless, in terms of social dominance, further studies that directly compare the roles of the dorsal and ventral prefrontal regions are needed.

Summary of neural substrates of social dominance

These findings suggest that various brain regions are involved in the perception of dominance, and that these areas can be classified into two groups: one group that codes only social ranking and includes the LPFC, amygdala, and anterior hippocampus, and a second group that codes both social and non-social rankings and includes the VMPFC, IPS, striatum, and posterior hippocampus (Table (Table1).1). Amygdala was suggested to play an important role for the learning of social ranking. Striatum seems to process information of both social and non-social ranking in relation to value and reward system. IPS seems to code both types of ranking in relation to the “magnitude” and LPFC may code social ranking as a part of social norm. However, these notions are just beginning to be explored and future experiments will clarify roles of each brain regions in dominance perception.

Neurotransmitters involved in social dominance and hierarchy formation

The following section summarizes the influence of the neurotransmitters involved in the perception of social dominance and the formation of a social hierarchy. The 5-HT and dopamine systems project throughout broad regions of the brain and regulate a variety of functions during the formation of a social hierarchy. Similarly, oxytocin levels throughout the brain are influenced by an individual’s status within a hierarchy. In contrast, the recently discovered Neuropeptide B/W and its receptor NPBWR1 are also involved in the perception of social dominance but exhibit a very limited distribution in the brain (Table (Table22).

Table 2

Neurotransmitters and hormones that influence social dominance.

Several endocrine systems also affects behavior and recognition of social dominance. As the influence of testosterone (Eisenegger et al., 2011; McCall and Singer, 2012) and corticosteroids (Sapolsky, 2005) on social dominance have already been extensively discussed in several reviews, we did not include these topics in this review.

5-HT system

Several studies have shown that this 5-HT system contributes to the formation of social hierarchy. Using measurements of 5-HT obtained from peripheral blood collected from the femoral veins of adult male vervet monkeys housed in groups, Raleigh et al. (1984) found that 5-HT levels depended on the social rank of a monkey, such that dominant monkeys had approximately twice the 5-HT concentrations of subordinate monkeys. However, the 5-HT levels of dominant monkeys were very sensitive to the presence of subordinates. When a dominant monkey was temporarily isolated, its 5-HT levels diminished to approximately the same level as those of the subordinate monkeys within 1 day. When these dominant monkeys were placed back into group housing, their 5-HT levels increased. On the other hand, the transition from a subordinate to a dominant position in the social hierarchy was accompanied by an increase in 5-HT levels. Unfortunately, because this study did not directly measure 5-HT levels in the brain, it cannot be determined whether these changes in social hierarchy were accompanied by changes in the neurobiological 5-HT system.

Raleigh et al. (1991) also examined whether 5-HT levels promoted the acquisition of dominance in adult male vervet monkeys by observing the hierarchical reshaping of a group. After the removal of the most dominant monkey from a group, certain subordinate monkeys were administered either tryptophan, a precursor of 5-HT (Young and Teff, 1989), to increase blood 5-HT levels, or fluoxetine, a selective 5-HT reuptake inhibitor (Gonzalez-Heydrich and Peroutka, 1990; Wong et al., 1990), to increase synaptic concentrations of 5-HT for 4 weeks. Compared with the non-treated controls in their group, subordinate monkeys who were treated with either tryptophan or fluoxetine exhibited greater levels of dominance within 4 weeks. Conversely, when the subordinate monkeys were administered fenfluramine, which disrupts 5-HT vesicle function when used in a chronic manner (Appel et al., 1990), or cyproheptadine, a 5-HT2A-receptor antagonist (Peroutka, 1988), the monkeys that received treatment forfeited their dominance and submitted to the non-treated controls within the group. These findings indicate that social dominance modulates internal 5-HT levels and that 5-HT levels can modulate vervet monkey hierarchy. Interestingly, Noonan et al. (2014) reported that the size of the raphe nucleus, which is the origin of 5-HT projection neurons (Hensler, 2006), is larger in dominant rhesus macaque monkeys than in subordinate monkeys. Although the study did not directly measure 5-HT levels in the brain, this observation is consistent with the idea that the 5-HT system influences the formation and maintenance of a social hierarchy.

Administration of 5-HT to humans has a similar effect on social dominance (Moskowitz et al., 2001). Healthy human participants received a dose of tryptophan (3 g/day) with their meals for 12 days and were asked to verbally describe their own communication frequency, agreeableness, and dominance. The participants who had been administered tryptophan exhibited an increase in dominant behavior and a decrease in quarrelsome behavior (critical comments of others).

Dopaminergic system

Stress results in increased synaptic dopamine levels in the midbrain and chronic stress causes a downregulation of dopamine D2 receptors (D2Rs; Cabib and Puglisi-Allegra, 1996). In a positron emission tomography (PET) study of social hierarchy, dominant cynomolgus monkeys had greater binding of the D2R ligand [18F]fluoroclebopride ([18F]FCP), which has high affinity for D2Rs in the basal ganglia, than did subordinate monkeys (Grant et al., 1998). Because the binding affinity of a ligand is typically directly proportional to the number of D2R binding sites (Mach et al., 1996), these findings indicate that the chronic stress experienced by subordinate monkeys causes downregulation of D2R expression. However, that study did not directly determine whether this difference was the result of a decreased number of D2Rs in subordinate monkeys or an increased number of D2Rs in dominant monkeys. Moreover, it was also unclear whether the differential expression of D2Rs reflected a neurobiological predisposition that predetermined hierarchical rank or a neurobiological alteration that was induced by the attainment of a particular hierarchical rank.

A comparison of D2R levels among individual- and group-housed cynomolgus monkeys revealed that, rather than D2R levels predetermining social rank, the formation of a social hierarchy produced a D2R gradient (Morgan et al., 2002). Furthermore, compared to pre-individual housing, the binding of [18F]FCP increased in all monkeys after they were housed together, such that the most dominant monkey exhibited a greater degree of binding than did the subordinate monkeys. Thus, although Grant et al. (1998) concluded that rank-dependent differences in the binding of FCP are the result of D2R downregulation in subordinate monkeys experiencing chronic stress, it is more likely that these differences are the result of increased D2R binding in dominant monkeys (Morgan et al., 2002).

Similar effects were reported in a human study that used the Barratt Simplified Measure of Social Status (BSMSS) to evaluate social status and PET scans with [11C]raclopride to assess D2R and D3R binding in the striatum (Martinez et al., 2010). BSMSS scores were positively correlated with the level of [11C]raclopride binding, which supported previous findings showing that social dominance was closely associated with the dopaminergic reward system.

Thus, the 5-HT and dopamine systems is modulated by the hierarchical position of an individual. Reversely, the blood level of 5-HT appears to affect one’s social status as well. Although dopamine was shown to act in the striatum, it is not clear whether similar change is observed in the other brain regions that expresses D2R and is reported to be engaged in dominance perception. Also, the primary site of action of 5-HT has not been determined in these studies.

Oxytocin system

In mammals, including humans, oxytocin plays an important role in the regulation of complex social cognition and social behaviors such as attachment, social recognition, social exploration, aggression, and anxiety (for a review, see Meyer-Lindenberg et al., 2011; Kumsta and Heinrichs, 2013). Several non-human studies have demonstrated the influence of oxytocin on the formation and maintenance of a social hierarchy. According to their social hierarchy, dominant female rhesus macaque monkeys had higher serum oxytocin levels than those of subordinate monkeys (Michopoulos et al., 2011). Similarly, the mRNA expression of oxytocin receptor-related genes in the medial nucleus of the amygdala was lower in subordinate rats than in dominant rats (Timmer et al., 2011). However, the precise functional role of oxytocin in the perception and learning of social dominance remains unclear.

NPBWR1 (GPR7) system

In contrast to monoaminergic system and oxytocin which distribute in wide areas of the brain, Neuropeptide B (NPB) and Neuropeptide W (NPW) system show limited localization (O’Dowd et al., 1995; Lee et al.,1999; Brezillon et al., 2003; Tanaka et al., 2003). NPBWR1 (or GPR7) is Gi-protein-coupled receptor and is highly conserved in specific region in the brain of humans and rodents. NPBWR1 mRNA has been localized to discrete brain regions including the hypothalamus, hippocampus, ventral tegmental area, and central nucleus of the amygdala in rodents (Lee et al., 1999; Tanaka et al., 2003), and the amygdala and hippocampus in humans (Brezillon et al., 2003). In behavioral tests, Npbwr1−/− mice exhibited a shorter latency to initial physical contact and longer contact and chase times with the intruder during a resident–intruder test compared with Npbwr1+/+ mice, indicating decreased social fear (Nagata-Kuroiwa et al., 2011). However, because there were no significant differences between Npbwr1−/− and Npbwr1+/+ mice in an open field test or an elevated plus maze test, this type of compulsive behavior toward the intruder does not seem to be indicative of an increase in general anxiety. Instead, this suggests that these changes were specific to the fear or anxiety experienced in a social context.

Watanabe et al. (2012) investigated behavioral differences during human social interactions and the relationships with NPBWR1 gene variants. In humans, the NPBWR1 gene may express a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), either 404AA or 404AT, at the site where this molecule binds to adenylate cyclase and subsequently regulates the function of this receptor. When human 404A or 404T genes were transfected into a HEK293A cell line, the 404T gene was associated with lower levels of cAMP release compared with the 404A gene, which indicates that the 404T gene impaired receptor function. Because Npbwr1−/− mice exhibited abnormal behaviors during social interactions (Nagata-Kuroiwa et al., 2011), it was hypothesized that a human with the 404AT gene would be less sensitive to social context cues such as facial expressions.

Watanabe et al. (2012) presented pictures of four types of facial expression to their participants and asked them to evaluate their emotions during the presentation (see Section Facial Expression and Dominance). There was a significant difference between the genotypes during the evaluation of dominance such that the 404AT group felt less submissive during the presentation of an angry face than did the 404AA group. This suggests that individual differences in the SNP of NPBWR1 influence the perception of dominance, especially when participants observe overpowering stimuli, such as angry faces. Because NPBWR1 mRNA expression occurs in limited areas, particularly in the amygdala in humans (Brezillon et al., 2003), this finding also supports the involvement of the amygdala in the perception of dominance during human interactions. However, the role of the Neuropeptide B/W system in the formation and maintenance of social hierarchies has yet to be directly validated.

Discussion and conclusion

Psychological studies in the fields of personality and emotion have consistently demonstrated that the concept of dominance is a basic and indispensable factor that is inherent in interpersonal communication. Recent studies using clinical lesion cases, structural MRI, fMRI, and PET scans, and neuronal recording in animal models have characterized the neural substrates that support the perception, learning, and formation of social dominance and social hierarchies.

In terms of perception and learning, no specific brain regions have been found to represent social dominance independently. Rather, the perception and learning of social dominance can be attributed to the integrated activity of various networks, which include the amygdala, striatum, hippocampus, IPS, VMPFC, and LPFC. Each region plays a different role that is specifically related to dominance signals (Table (Table1).1). We summarized the network that includes regions described in this article in reference to their anatomical connections (Figure (Figure2)2) (Clower et al., 2001; Freese and Amaral, 2009; Haber and Knutson, 2010; Yeterian et al., 2012).

Figure 2

Network model of social dominance. Regions that have been reported to be involved in the perception of social dominance are shown. The black lines and arrows indicate possible direct connections between regions based on the anatomical studies (Clower

In this network, which part is a key component for the perception of dominance? It is hard to pinpoint, however, we suppose that the origin of the perception of dominance is a phylogenetically primitive part of the brain, because at the age of 15 months, children could already infer social ranking based on their own previous experiences (Mascaro and Csibra, 2012). In fact, even fish can infer social ranking (Grosenick et al.,2007). The amygdala is involved in the perception (Emery et al., 2001; Machado and Bachevalier, 2006; Zink et al., 2008) and learning (Kumaran et al., 2012) of social dominance and can influence the formation and maintenance of a social hierarchy (Rosvold et al., 1954; Noonan et al., 2014). Based on the available data, it is reasonable to assume that the amygdala is the primary brain region that supports the perception of dominance, because the majority of, if not all, studies have found that social hierarchy learning dynamics are represented in this region. The amygdala has afferent connections with hippocampus, striatum and VMPFC (Freese and Amaral, 2009). Thus, it is possible that the information of social rank (dominance) of a person is sent to these regions in which the knowledge and value associated with him/her is modulated (Phelps, 2004; Hampton et al., 2007; Stuber et al., 2011; Watanabe et al., 2013). The striatum receives afferent connection from the amygdala but no direct efferent fibers to the amygdala are reported, which indicates the possibility that social dominance information is sent to the striatum from the amygdala. The striatal activation is sensitive to pictures which represent similar social status as the participant’s subjective one (Ly et al., 2011). Such representation of subjective value might reflect the modulation by the input from the amygdala. On the other hand, VMPFC has reciprocal innervation with the amygdala. It is thought that the amygdala supports the value calculation in VMPFC (Hampton et al., 2007) and conversely VMPFC regulates amygdala activity (Phelps et al., 2004; Cho et al., 2013); therefore value representation related to social dominance may also be modified by the amygdala-VMPFC interaction. Compared to a strong connectivity between the amygdala and VMPFC, the IPS projection from the amygdala seems weak (Freese and Amaral, 2009), but the IPS has connections with the hippocampus (anterior and posterior) (Clower et al., 2001), therefore both social and non-social dominance information might be sent from the hippocampus to the IPS. Such rank information could be processed as information of magnitude in this region.

The other area that is only associated with social dominance is the LPFC. The specificity of social context is consistent with recent reports of the specific engagement of the LPFC to socially normative behavior (Spitzer et al., 2007; Ruff et al., 2013). Because the normative behavior is influenced by social status (Cummins,2000), it is possible that the LPFC may integrate social hierarchical information from IPS, hippocampus and VMPFC where information from the amygdala is processed, and support the execution of adaptive behavior based on the hierarchical relationship.

Furthermore, as summarized in Table Table2,2, several neurotransmitters such as 5-HT, dopamine, oxytocin and NPB/W may modify activities of these networks. While the target site of 5-HT for dominance perception has not been identified so far, in terms of the dopamine system, the studies are focused on the striatum, and the expression level of D2R in the striatum is affected by an individual’s social status in both monkey and human (Grant et al., 1998; Morgan et al., 2002; Martinez et al., 2010). A localized influence of oxytocin in relation to social rank was also shown in rats, specifically that mRNA expression of oxytocin receptor-related genes in the medial nucleus of the amygdala is affected by their status (Timmer et al., 2011). In addition, NPBWR1 is predominantly expressed in the amygdala and hippocampus (Brezillon et al., 2003) and plays a role in the perception of dominance in human (Solid colored lines in Figure Figure22).

Work in the hierarchy formation started early in the study of human psychology and animal experimentation, however research on neural substrates of dominance perception and hierarchy formation has just begun. Combinations of molecular and brain imaging technologies will advance the understanding of how these neural networks operate and how neurotransmitters modify activities in each region listed in this article in the context of dominance perception and hierarchy formation.

Conflict of interest statement

The Guest Associate Editor Sonoko Ogawa declares that, despite being affiliated to the same institution as author Miyuki Yamamoto, the review process was handled objectively and no conflict of interest exists. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.


This study was supported by Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (B) (Grant 25780454), and Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Fellows (Grant 14J02502) to N.W. from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.


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Articles from Frontiers in Neuroscience are provided here courtesy of Frontiers Media SA

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Front Neurosci. 2015; 9: 154.
Published online 2015 Jun 17. doi:  10.3389/fnins.2015.00154
PMCID: PMC4469834

Neural mechanisms of social dominance

Emotion fashion

Lets talk about clothes for emotion runners

Dopamine doesn’t care about clothes as he knows that any trousers will wear out in his eternally long life. So he wears what comes to him first.

Serotonin walks around dressed in purple and gold. Crown is his favorite type of hat.

Cortisol uses camouflage whenever it’s possible. Grey and black are his favorite colors to look like just a shadow. Clothes must allow to fight or run away of potential enemy. Several frightening contrast and color patterns may be involved. He may believe that a cross or other amulet can save him from evils skulking around.

Testosterone uses classic style of dress. No images, mostly black for men and red for women. A business suit is his skin. Dressing is thought to allow to carry as much resources in hands as possible. A credit card for example 🙂

Oxytocin – a big T-shirt with cute animal on it is his favorite.

Better workout and longer stretching is the main factors to choose clothing for Endorphin. A dress that allows to enjoy a pain in its best way.