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There are a lot of false dichotomies out there — left brain vs. They have greater access to power, money, and mates, which they gain through physical prowess, intimidation, and domination. This distinction, which is often based on observations among other social animals such as chimpanzees and wolves paints a very black and white picture of masculinity. As the expression goes, when all you have is a hammer, all you see are nails. Consider one of the earliest sets of studies on the relationship between dominance and attractiveness. The researchers presented their participants with videotaped and written scenarios depicting two men interacting with each other.
He has been playing tennis for one year and is currently enrolled in an intermediate tennis class. His serve is very strong and his returns are extremely powerful. In addition to his physical abilities, he has the mental qualities that lead to success in tennis. He is extremely competitive, refusing to yield against opponents who have been playing much longer. All of his movements tend to communicate dominance and authority. He tends to psychologically dominate his opponents, forcing them off their games and into mental mistakes. His serve and his returns are consistent and well placed.
Although he plays well, he prefers to play for fun rather than to win. He is not particularly competitive and tends to yield to opponents who have been playing tennis much longer. He is easily thrown off his game by opponents who play with great authority. Strong opponents are able to psychologically dominate him, sometimes forcing him off his game. He enjoys the game of tennis but avoids highly competitive situations.
Across four studies, the researchers found that the dominance scenarios were considered more sexually attractive, although dominant John was regarded as less likeable and not desired as a spouse. Taken at face value, this study seems to support the sexual attractiveness of the dominant alpha male over the submissive beta male. In a follow up study, the researchers isolated various adjectives to pinpoint which descriptors were actually considered sexually attractive. There seemed to be more to the story than just mere dominance vs.
Enter a study by Jerry Burger and Mica Cosby. The researchers had female undergraduates read the same descriptions of John the tennis player dominant vs. Consistent with the prior study, women found dominant John more sexually appealing than submissive John. However, the John depicted in the control condition had the highest ratings of sexiness of them all!
Next, the researchers fiddled with the descriptors of John. The researchers then asked women to indicate which of the adjectives used to describe John were ideal for a date as well as for a long-term romantic partner. Not one woman wanted a submissive male for either a date or romance. This analysis was revealing because it suggests that dominance can take many forms. The dominant male who is demanding, violent, and self-centered is not considered attractive to most women, whereas the dominant male who is assertive and confident is considered attractive. Their also suggest that sensitivity and assertiveness are not opposites.
In fact, further research suggests that the combination of kindness and assertiveness might just be the most attractive pairing. In other words, dominance only increased sexual attraction when the person was already high in agreeableness and altruism. Along similar lines, Jeffrey Snyder and colleagues reported that dominance was only attractive to females for both a short-term affair and a long-term relationship in the context of male-male competitions.
Tellingly, women did not find men attractive who used aggressive dominance force or threat of force while competing for leadership in informal decision making among peers. This suggests that women are attuned to cues that indicate that the male might direct his aggression toward her, with dominance toward competitors considered more attractive than dominance toward friends or coalition members.
Distinguishing between the different shades of dominance, and how they interact with kindness, is not just important for understanding sexual attraction among humans. It also has deep implications for the evolution of social status. Dominance vs. In our species, the attainment of social status, and the mating benefits that come along with it, can be accomplished through compassion and cooperation just as much if not more so as through aggression and intimidation. Scholars across ethnography, ethology, sociology, and sociolinguistics believe that at least two routes to social status — dominance and prestige — arose in evolutionary history at different times and for different purposes.
The dominance route is paved with intimidation, threats, and coercion, and is fueled by hubristic pride. Hubristic pride is associated with arrogance, conceit, anti-social behaviors, unstable relationships, low levels of conscientiousness and high levels of disagreeableness, neuroticism, narcissism, and poor mental health outcomes.
Hubristic pride, along with its associated feelings of superiority and arrogance, facilitates dominance by motivating behaviors such as aggression, hostility, and manipulation. In contrast, prestige is paved with the emotional rush of accomplishment, confidence, and success, and is fueled by authentic pride. Authentic pride is associated with pro-social and achievement-oriented behaviors, agreeableness, conscientiousness, satisfying interpersonal relationships, and positive mental health. Critically, authentic pride is associated with genuine self-esteem considering yourself a person of value, not considering yourself superior to others.
Authentic pride, along with its associated feelings of confidence and accomplishment, facilitates behaviors that are associated with attaining prestige. People who are confident, agreeable, hard-working, energetic, kind, empathic, nondogmatic, and high in genuine self-esteem inspire others and cause others to want to emulate them. In this society, dominance as ranked by peers was positively related to physical size, whereas peer-ranked prestige was positively associated with hunting ability, generosity, and of allies.
Interestingly, while advocates for acting dominant often point to chimps as proof of the exclusivity of this route to male status, recent research has shown that even among primates , alpha male status can be achieved not only through size and strength but through adept sociability and the grooming of others as well.
Flexibility and Adaptability: The Advantages of Prestige. You can be an alpha amongst one group, and a beta in another. In the context of a harsh, dangerous environment, the dominant male is valued because he can get what he wants, and provide resources to those who will submit to and follow him.
But outside of pure barbarian society i. In one set of studies conducted on university-level varsity athletes, dominant individuals were found to have lower levels of genuine self-esteem, social acceptance, and agreeableness and higher levels of narcissism, aggression, agency, disagreeableness, and conscientiousness. Dominant individuals were rated by their peers as higher in athleticism and leadership, but lower in altruism, cooperativeness, helpfulness, ethicality, and morality.
In contrast, prestigious individuals had lower levels of aggression and neuroticism, and higher levels of genuine self-esteem, social acceptance, agreeableness, and even GPA. Just like their dominant peers, prestigious individuals were rated as being better leaders and more athletic, but they were also considered more intellectual, socially skilled, altruistic, cooperative, helpful, ethical, and moral.
These clearly show that dominance and prestige represent very different ways of attaining and maintaining status. While dominance may be advantageous in a narrow set of circumstances, prestige is far more valued in nearly every context. Due to their authentic pride, prestigious individuals are more likely to be respected, socially accepted, and thus successful. Who would you rather have on your team — Kevin Durant or Dennis Rodman?
Amongst chimps, once a male has fought his way to the top, and becomes the alpha, his enjoyment of that status is short-lived; another dominant male will soon come along to challenge him and knock him off his throne. On a cultural level, peoples like the Mongols or Vikings dominated others and were the alphas in their time, but were unable to adapt, and died off.
Prestigious men — like the Founding Fathers — were able to create a legacy that continues on today. It is neither the alpha nor the beta male that is most desired by women. Taken together, the research suggests that the ideal man for a date or romantic partner is one who is assertive, confident, easygoing, and sensitive, without being aggressive, demanding, dominant, quiet, shy, or submissive.
In other words, a prestigious man , not a dominant man. In fact, it appears that the prestigious man who is high in both assertiveness and kindness is considered the most attractive to women for both short-term affairs and long-term relationships. This research should offer some assurance that the genuinely nice, passionate kid who learns a culturally valued skill can be immensely attractive.
Further, seeking to become a prestigious man is not only the surest route to success with women, but achievement in any area of life. This means developing a skill that brings value to society, and cultivating a stable sense of identity. Such a route will not only make you more attractive to women, but will also create the most satisfying life for yourself in general. The most attractive male is really a blend of characteristics, including assertiveness, kindness, cultivated skills, and a genuine sense of value in this world.
The true alpha is fuller, deeper, and richer. Us. About Us. As the story typically goes, there are two types of men. The Science of Dominance Consider one of the earliest sets of studies on the relationship between dominance and attractiveness. But not so fast. Conclusion It is neither the alpha nor the beta male that is most desired by women. Next Big Idea Club Picks. Malcolm Gladwell. Susan Cain. Daniel Pink.
Adam Grant. Download the Next Big Idea App. Also in Magazine. By Editors. By Edward Glaeser and David Cutler. Sorry, we cannot you up right now. Please try again! Also me up to the Heleo newsletter. You'll hear from us soon.Submissive looking for a dominant guy
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