Human Nature

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 306–321 | Cite as

Sex differences in negotiating with powerful males

An ethological analysis of approaches to nightclub doormen
  • Frank Salter
  • Karl Grammer
  • Anja Rikowski


A hypothesis derived from evolutionary theory and previous qualitative observation is that male and female subordinates deploy different interpersonal signals to obtain concessions from powerful males. The present study tested this hypothesis by means of a quantitative naturalistic observational method. Would-be patrons were videotaped approaching the entrance of an exclusive nightclub in Munich, Germany, where doormen control entry. Patrons’ dominance, affiliative, and sexual signals in gestures and dress were coded for conditions of low and high doorman threat. Although both sexes used appeasing gestures of smiles and greetings, females deployed many appeasements using affiliative and courtship signals while males tended to withhold appeasements by masking agonistic affect. Moreover, when approaching larger numbers of doormen, males accelerated while females slowed down. The evolutionary hypothesis was confirmed, at least for our German sample, that males and females use some different strategies for minimizing threat from powerful males.

Key words

Appeasements Behavioral strategies Dominance Evolution Nightclub doormen Power Sex differences Superior-subordinate interactions 


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Copyright information

© Transaction Publishers 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Human EthologyMax Planck SocietyAndechsGermany
  2. 2.Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Urban EthologyVienna

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