Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

pp 1-7

Date: Latest Version

Social Reasoning Affected by Rank (Mealey, Daood, Krage, 1996)

  • Raoul BellAffiliated withHeinrich Heine University Düsseldorf Email author 
  • , Axel BuchnerAffiliated withHeinrich Heine University Düsseldorf Email author 


Cheater detection; Dominance; Reasoning about social norms; Social exchange algorithms; Social rank


The influence of the social status of a person within a group or society on cheater detection and memory for cheaters.


Most human societies and primate groups are pervaded by social dominance hierarchies. It is therefore plausible to assume that our cognitive system is shaped by selective pressures that require the individuals to adapt to the hierarchical organization of these social environments. Specifically, dominance theory (Cummins 1998, 1999, 2005) implies that the reasoning about social norms is affected by social rank. This hypothesis seems quite reasonable considering that social dominance hierarchies can be defined as a set of explicit or implicit social norms that define who is allowed to gain access to valuable resources (such as mates or food) and who is not. A social dominance hierarchy can only be maintained if the individuals in the group learn ...

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