Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

History of Dominance Theory

  • Vincent BarnettEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_3852-1



Dominance theory in ethology is concerned with how dominance hierarchies develop and function within human and animal societies in relation to the operation and maintenance of social status, behavioral strategies for survival and reproduction, and gaining preferential access to resources in competitive social situations.


This entry will start with a history of dominance theory in ethology, before documenting the history of the understandings of socially stratified relations as they have been developed in some other subjects such as sociology and philosophy. It will then consider component concepts of Denise Cummins’ more recent account of dominance hierarchies in more detail, as it was developed as part of the wider evolutionary psychology paradigm.

In terms of a definition, a dominance hierarchy, otherwise known more colloquially as a pecking order or a rank order, is simply a...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Alexander, R. D. (1961). Aggressiveness, territoriality, and sexual behavior in field crickets. Behavior, 17, 130–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allee, W. C. (1926). Studies in animal aggregations: Causes and effects of bunching in land isopods. The Journal of Experimental Zoology, 45, 255–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnett, V. (2009). Marx. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Blount, B. G. (1990). Spatial expression of social relationships among captive Pan Paniscus. In S. T. Parker & K. R. Gibson (Eds.), “Language” and intelligence in monkeys and apes (pp. 420–432). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boas, F. (1964 [1888]). The central Eskimo. Lincoln: University of Nebraska.Google Scholar
  6. Buettner, G. R. (1993). The pecking order of free radicals and antioxidants: Lipid peroxidation, alpha-tocopherol, and ascorbate. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 300(2), 535–543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buunk, A. P., & Dijkstra, P. (2012). The social animal within organizations. In S. C. Roberts (Ed.), Applied evolutionary psychology (pp. 36–53). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Chance, M. R. A. (1967). Attention structure as the basis of primate rank order. Man, 2, 503–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chapais, B. (1991). Primates and the origin of aggression, power, and politics among humans. In J. D. Loy & C. B. Peters (Eds.), Understanding behavior: What primate studies tell us about human behavior (pp. 190–227). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cummins, D. (1996a). Evidence for the innateness of deontic reasoning. Mind & Language, 11, 160–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cummins, D. (1996b). Dominance hierarchies and the evolution of human reasoning. Minds and Machines, 6, 463–480.Google Scholar
  12. Cummins, D. (1998). Social norms and other minds. The evolutionary root of higher cognition. In D. Cummins & C. Allen (Eds.), The evolution of mind (pp. 30–50). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Cummins, D. (1999). Cheater detection is modified by social rank: The impact of dominance on the evolution of cognitive functions. Evolution and Human Behavior, 20, 229–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cummins, D. (2000). How the social environment shaped the evolution of mind. Synthese, 122, 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cummins, D. (2005). Dominance, status, and social hierarchies. In D. M. Buss (Ed.), The handbook of evolutionary psychology (pp. 676–696). New Jersey: Wiley.Google Scholar
  16. Darwin, C. (1871 [1874]). The descent of man and selection in relation to sex. London: Murray.Google Scholar
  17. Davies, A., & Shackelford, T. (2008). Two human natures: How men and women evolved different psychologies. In C. Crawford & D. Krebs (Eds.), Foundations of evolutionary psychology (pp. 261–280). New York: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  18. Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. (1975). Ethology: The biology of behavior. New York: Holt.Google Scholar
  19. Esser, A. H. (1968). Dominance hierarchy and clinical course of psychiatrically hospitalized boys. Child Development, 39, 147–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fisher, R. A. (1930). The genetical theory of natural selection. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Frank, M., & Goyal, V. (2003). Testing the pecking order theory of capital structure. Journal of Financial Economics, 67(2), 217–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ginsburgh, B., & Allee, W. (1942). Some effects of conditioning on social dominance and subordination in inbred strains of mice. Physiological Zoology, 15, 485–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gregory, J. (1766 [1765]). A comparative view of the state and faculties of man with those of the animal world. London: Dodsley.Google Scholar
  24. Hobbes, T. (1983 [1651]). Leviathan. Glasgow: Collins.Google Scholar
  25. Howard, H. E. (1920). Territory in bird life. London: Murray.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Howlett, R. (1709). The royal pastime of cock-fighting. London: Brown.Google Scholar
  27. Jaques, E. (1991). In Praise of hierarchy. In G. Thompson, J. Frances, R. Levacic & J. Mitchell (Eds.), Markets, Hierarchies and Networks (pp. 108-118). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  28. Jeppesen, L. E. (1982). Teat-order in groups of piglets reared on an artificial sow. Applied Animal Ethology, 8(4), 347–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kawamura, S. (1965). Matriarchal social ranks in the Minoo-B troop. In S. Altman (Ed.), Japanese monkeys (pp. 105–112). Atlanta: Altman.Google Scholar
  30. Lorenz, K. (1935). Der Kumpan in der Umwelt des Vogels. Journal für Ornithologie, 83, 137–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Maslow, A. H. (1937). Dominance-feeling, behavior, and status. Psychological Review, 44, 404–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mavin, S. (2008). Queen bees, wannabees, and afraid to bees: No more “best enemies” for women in management? British Journal of Management, 19, 75–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Millar, J. (1771). Observations concerning the distinction of ranks in society. London: Murray.Google Scholar
  34. Morgan, C. L. (1896). Habit and instinct. London: Arnold.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Omark, D., Strayer, F., & Freedman, D. (Eds.). (1980). Dominance relations. New York: Garland.Google Scholar
  36. Parker, S. T. (1990). Origins of comparative developmental evolutionary studies of primate mental abilities. In S. T. Parker & K. R. Gibson (Eds.), “Language” and intelligence in monkeys and apes (pp. 3–64). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rajecki, D. W. (1991). Leap orders in male chickens. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 105(1), 73–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Richards, S. (1974). The concept of dominance and methods of assessment. Animal Behavior, 22, 914–930.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Romanes, G. (1898 [1878]). Animal intelligence. London: Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  40. Rousseau, J. J. (1761). A discourse upon the origin and foundation of the inequality among mankind. London: Dodsley.Google Scholar
  41. Russell, B. (1938). Power: A new social analysis. London: Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  42. Schjelderup-Ebbe, T. (1921). Gallus Domesticus in Seinem Taglichen Leben. Greifswald: Universitat Greifswald.Google Scholar
  43. Shettleworth, S. J. (2012). Darwin, Tinbergen, and the evolution of comparative cognition. In J. Vonk & T. K. Shackelford (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of comparative evolutionary psychology (pp. 529–546). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Shirley, J. (1683). The history of the Turks. London: Smith.Google Scholar
  45. Smith, A. (Smith 1976 [1759]). The theory of moral sentiments. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  46. Turner, A. K. (1992). Primate aggression. In S. Jones, R. Martin, & D. Pilbeam (Eds.), The Cambridge encyclopedia of human evolution (pp. 148–149). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Uhrich, J. (1938). The social hierarchy in albino mice. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 48, 397–403.Google Scholar
  48. Vonk, J., & Shackelford, T. K. (Eds.). (2012). The Oxford handbook of comparative evolutionary psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Watts, C., & Stokes, A. (1971). The social order of Turkeys. Scientific American, 224, 112–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Weber, M. (1947 [1922]). The theory of social and economic organization. London: Hodge.Google Scholar
  51. Wilson, E. O. (1971). Competitive and aggressive behavior. In J. F. Eisenberg & W. S. Dillon (Eds.), Man and beast: Comparative social behavior (pp. 181–217). Washington, DC: Smithsonian.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LondonUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Todd K. Shackelford
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOakland UniversityRochesterUSA