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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Two signals of social rank : prestige and dominance associated with distinct nonverbal displays Witkower, Zachary


Converging evidence suggests that generalized high rank is communicated via various nonverbal behaviors (e.g., expansiveness), but prior studies have not examined whether two distinct forms of high social rank – known as prestige and dominance –are communicated via distinct nonverbal displays. Across five studies using carefully controlled experimental designs and the assessment of spontaneously displayed behaviors during a laboratory-based group interaction and a real-world political contest, we found that these two strategies are associated with distinct sets of nonverbal behaviors. Specifically, prestige, or the attainment of rank through earned respect, and dominance, or the use of intimidation and force to obtain power, are communicated from different head positions (i.e., tilted upward vs. downward), smiling (i.e., presence vs. absence), and different forms of bodily expansion (i.e., subtle chest expansion vs. more grandiose space-taking). These findings provide the first evidence for two distinct signals of high rank, which spontaneously emerge in social interactions and guide social perceptions and the conferral of power.

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