Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Strauss ED, Shizuka D. 2022 The dynamics of dominance: open questions, challenges and solutions. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 377: 20200445.


© 2022 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.


Although social hierarchies are recognized as dynamic systems, they are typically treated as static entities for practical reasons. Here, we ask what we can learn from a dynamical view of dominance, and provide a research agenda for the next decades. We identify five broad questions at the individual, dyadic and group levels, exploring the causes and consequences of individual changes in rank, the dynamics underlying dyadic dominance relationships, and the origins and impacts of social instability. Although challenges remain, we propose avenues for overcoming them. We suggest distinguishing between different types of social mobility to provide conceptual clarity about hierarchy dynamics at the individual level, and emphasize the need to explore how these dynamic processes produce dominance trajectories over individual lifespans and impact selection on status-seeking behaviour. At the dyadic level, there is scope for deeper exploration of decision-making processes leading to observed interactions, and how stable but malleable relationships emerge from these interactions. Across scales, model systems where rank is manipulable will be extremely useful for testing hypotheses about dominance dynamics. Long-term individual-based studies will also be critical for understanding the impact of rare events, and for interrogating dynamics that unfold over lifetimes and generations. This article is part of the theme issue ‘The centennial of the pecking order: current state and future prospects for the study of dominance hierarchies’.

Included in

Biology Commons