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Erectness of posture as an indicator of dominance or success in humans

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Abstract

Darwin and others have perceived parallels between the erect bearing of proud, successful humans and the expansive demeanor of dominant animals. Various additional parallels between man and other primates in the characteristics of dominance hierarchies, the facial and postural expression of dominance, and its possible neural mediation are described. In the present study, success by human subjects in various situations was found to be reflected by erect posture. In a longitudinal study, boys who had been ranked by peers as “tough,” or dominant in agonistic encounters, in early grade school were observed to have erect posture in high school. Further, high school students who were judged by peers as successful by group standards tended to have erect posture. Finally, erectness of posture was related to performance on a college examination, with students' posture changing in erectness upon their receiving their grade. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that human competition for social success is based upon a biological capacity for dominance hierarchization.

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This research was supported in part by a Wayne State University Faculty Research Award to the first author. Portions of this report were presented at the Animal Behavior Society meeting in June 1980 at Fort Collins, Colorado.

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Weisfeld, G.E., Beresford, J.M. Erectness of posture as an indicator of dominance or success in humans. Motiv Emot 6, 113–131 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00992459

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