Do Bullies Win?: A Critical Look at the Dominance Theory of Social Hierarchy

Colloquium | February 13 | 12:10-1:15 p.m. | 1104 Berkeley Way West

 Cameron Anderson, Professor, BerkeleyHaas

 Institute of Personality and Social Research

All too commonly, we see aggressive, bullying individuals in positions of influence and power. The frequency with which these individuals occupy the top echelon begs the question: does aggression and bullying help people rise to the top of social hierarchies? According to dominance theory, the answer is “yes”: individuals can attain influence by intimidating others and forcing them to defer. Dominance theory has become very popular in the field and is commonly taken on faith. In this talk I take a critical look at dominance theory, arguing why dominance is unlikely to help individuals gain influence in the long run. I then summarize the evidence cited as supportive of dominance theory, and discuss how it can be explained instead with prestige theory - which argues that individuals attain influence by appearing to provide value to their group. Finally, I present findings that can help explain why people so commonly believe dominance is an effective route to the top, even when it is not.

 ipsr@berkeley.edu, 510-642-5050