Determinants of Dominance

Dominance is a notion in many disciplines, including biology, psychology, and economics. It alludes to an individual's or group's capacity to exercise control and influence over others. Dominance is the ability of one individual in a group to exert control or influence over the behavior of others. Various factors can influence dominance within a group, including physical size, social skills, communication abilities, and cultural context.

What are the Determinants of Dominance?

A range of verbal and nonverbal cues indicate great dominance and rank. They include time spent conversing with testosterone. This section outlines the most crucial dominance and status correlations. In many circumstances, correlational data cannot be used to establish causality. If testosterone is associated with dominance, does this imply that high testosterone leads to high dominance, high dominance leads to high testosterone, or both?

If persons with higher status tend to stand taller than those with lower status, do tall standing lead to status, status lead to standing tall, or both? In most circumstances, we cannot provide answers to these causal issues. Nevertheless, the correlates of dominance and status paint an intriguing picture of what goes with relative position.

Testosterone and Dominance

Testosterone is an androgen, the most crucial hormone class that contributes to developing and maintaining "masculine" characteristics in various species. Castrated male chicks, for example, do not acquire the red comb and wattles that indicate a rooster's reproductive capacity, do not crow or woo hens, and avoid fights with other cocks. Sex variations in testosterone are apparent in humans. Males have one hundred thousandths of a gram of testosterone per liter of blood, about seven times that of women.

While testosterone is generated in women's adrenal cortex and ovaries, the Leydig cells in men's testes produce far more, explaining the enormous sex difference. Testosterone levels can be determined using blood or saliva samples. The male testes rapidly increase testosterone production throughout puberty, culminating in a tenfold rise above prepubescent levels. A rise in testosterone causes puberty-related changes, such as penis development, voice deepening, the muscular mass, facial and body hair, and an increased desire for sex.

Scientists have long assumed that testosterone is linked to dominance and status in various animal species. In one trial, for example, testosterone was given to low-ranking cows. As a result, the treated cows advanced in rank among the other cows. They fell back to their previous low rankings after testosterone was removed. A similar response was observed in low-ranking roosters given testosterone injections: Their comb sizes grew, and they ascended through the ranks, occasionally to the top.

Serotonin and Dominance

The neurotransmitter serotonin has also been studied in terms of dominance. Prozac, a medicine often used to treat depression and anxiety, works by raising serotonin levels in the brain. Michael McGuire and Michael Raleigh, evolutionary biologists, discovered that males with high social rank had nearly double the amount of serotonin in their blood as low-ranking monkeys.

Nevertheless, like with testosterone, the causal pathways can run in both directions. Serotonin levels decreased when alpha males were deposed. Serotonin levels increased as a lower-ranking guy rose to prominence. McGuire and Raleigh observed that by confining an alpha male behind a one-way mirror so that the other monkeys could not see him and so failed to conduct submissive behaviors; they could drastically lower his serotonin levels. The alpha males misinterpreted the inability of others to submit as a sign of loss of status. Therefore their serotonin levels declined.

Facial Dominance

Another indicator of status is a dominant-looking face. Facial dominance is characterized by characteristics such as a prominent chin, heavy brow ridges, and a muscular face; low dominance is characterized by the inverse: a weak chin, modest brow ridges, and a fleshy face. Ulrich Mueller and Allan Mazur, evolutionary psychologists, judged 434 West Point students' face dominance and tracked them throughout their military careers.

They noticed that individuals with dominating looks advanced more in the military academy. More than two decades after the first images were taken, facial dominance was likewise favorably associated with their midcareer rankings and promotions in their late career.

In another study, fifty-eight high school boys' facial dominances were graded alongside their physical beauty and pubertal development. These lads then filled out questionnaires requesting details about their sexual encounters. All three predictors—facial dominance, physical attractiveness, and pubertal development—were positively associated with having had sexual intercourse and having a total number of sex partners. Despite statistically controlling for beauty and pubertal development, facial dominance still predicted sexual experience. The research concluded that a prominent facial appearance increases male sexual access.

Determinants of Dominance in Modern Society

It includes −

Physical Strength

One of the most apparent power factors is physical strength. The most significant individuals of a species are frequently the prominent ones in the animal world. Physical strength is still a component in people, though it is not as essential as it once was. However, physical power can still give dominance in certain circumstances, such as sports or manual work.


The place of an individual in a societal hierarchy is referred to as status. Individuals with great status are frequently regarded as more dominant in many cultures. Various variables influence status, including wealth, schooling, occupation, and family history. In some instances, such as monarchies or aristocracies, rank is given by birthright.

Personality Characteristics

Personality characteristics can also be used to determine authority. For example, bold, confident, and outgoing people may be regarded as more potent than timid and introverted people. Competitive and ambitious individuals may be perceived as more potent than those who are satisfied with their present status.

Communication Skills

Another essential element in determining dominance is communication abilities. Individuals who can successfully and persuasively interact are often regarded as more dominant than those who battle to articulate themselves. This is especially true in business and politics, where bargaining and convincing are critical.


Another predictor of control is aggressiveness, which is often regarded unfavorably in contemporary society. Aggressive behavior is frequently required for life and reproductive success in the animal world. Aggression, on the other hand, can be counterproductive in people, leading to conflict and bloodshed.


Access to money, land, and other assets can also influence control. Individuals with more means are frequently regarded as more robust and more authoritative. This is especially true in capitalist cultures, where wealth signifies achievement.

Group Dynamics

Dominance can also be determined by group relations. In many instances, the influential person or group can impose its will on others. This can be accomplished through various methods, such as threats, persuasion, and force. The dominant group can sometimes retain its place through institutionalized power structures such as laws, regulations, and societal standards.

How does Culture influence Dominance?

Culture has a significant impact on how we perceive and show dominance. It influences how we perceive and react to dominance, which we consider dominant, and what actions and characteristics are linked with dominance. Here are some examples of how culture can affect dominance −

Cultural Norms

Each society has its norms that determine appropriate conduct. These norms shape how people act and are viewed in society. Assertiveness and competitiveness are highly valued in some societies and may be interpreted as indications of control, whereas humility and collaboration are valued more highly in others. These societal standards can influence how people show dominance and how others view them.

Power Structures

Culture also impacts the authority systems that exist in society. Power, for example, is centralized in the hands of a few people or groups in some societies, such as a governing family or a political establishment. Power may be more broadly distributed in other societies, with many people having equitable access—these power structures impact who is deemed dominant in society and how they keep their supremacy.

Gender Roles

Gender responsibilities and standards can also impact authority. In many societies, men are supposed to be more powerful and assertive than women. Women who exhibit dominant behaviors may be considered to be violating gender norms, whereas men who exhibit dominant behaviors are perceived to be completing their position as the dominant.

Communication Styles

Communication styles differ significantly across countries and impact how people show authority. In some societies, for example, indirect communication is regarded more highly than open contact. Individuals may find it more challenging to express themselves authoritatively, as straightforward communication may be perceived as confrontational or impolite.

Religious Beliefs

Religious views and behaviors can also influence our perception of dominance. Karma determines an individual's position and authority in some religions, such as Hinduism. Other faiths, such as Islam, regard devotion to God and religious leaders as a crucial component of supremacy. These beliefs can impact how people perceive and show dominance in their society.


Moreover, physical power, prestige, psychological characteristics, communication skills, aggressiveness, resources, and group dynamics all impact dominance. While the importance of these variables varies based on the circumstance, they all play a role in determining who has power and influence in society. Understanding these power factors can help people negotiate social circumstances and work toward their objectives.

Updated on: 11-Apr-2023


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