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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Face-to-face competition for rank in human status hierarchies is similar to “dominance competition” in other primate species, particularly the African apes. Each individual has signs or signals showing that it has or ought to have high or low status. Group members may accept these signs at face value, or one individual may challenge another for high rank. Among apes and humans, such dominance contests are usually nonviolent, often taking the form of an exchange of stressful signals. Eventually, one contestant withdraws or concedes the higher rank, thus lowering the stress level. Serious competition with important stakes is influenced by a physiological substrate of the hormones testosterone and cortisol and the enzyme α-amylase. Among humans, language is an important channel for exchanging dominant and deferent signals. Apart from the physiological substrate, instantaneous stress responses underlie status allocation. These mechanisms are illustrated with recent experimental results.

Keywords: dominance, testosterone, cortisol, α-amylase, primates

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