The Dominance Behavioral System and Psychopathology: Evidence From Self-Report, Observational, and Biological Studies

Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, 94720, USA.
Psychological Bulletin (Impact Factor: 14.76). 04/2012; 138(4):692-743. DOI: 10.1037/a0027503
Source: PubMed


The dominance behavioral system (DBS) can be conceptualized as a biologically based system that guides dominance motivation, dominant and subordinate behavior, and responsivity to perceptions of power and subordination. A growing body of research suggests that problems with the DBS are evident across a broad range of psychopathologies. We begin by describing psychological, social, and biological correlates of the DBS. Extensive research suggests that externalizing disorders, mania proneness, and narcissistic traits are related to heightened dominance motivation and behaviors. Mania and narcissistic traits also appear related to inflated self-perceptions of power. Anxiety and depression are related to subordination and submissiveness, as well as a desire to avoid subordination. Models of the DBS have received support from research with humans and animals; from self-report, observational, and biological methods; and use of naturalistic and experimental paradigms. Limitations of available research include the relative lack of longitudinal studies using multiple measures of the DBS and the absence of relevant studies using diagnosed samples to study narcissistic personality disorder and bipolar disorder. We provide suggestions for future research on the DBS and psychopathology, including investigations of the potential usefulness of DBS in differentiating specific disorder outcomes, the need for more sophisticated biological research, and the value of longitudinal dynamical research. Implications of using the DBS as a tool in clinical assessment and treatment are discussed.

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Available from: Sheri L Johnson, Oct 08, 2015
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    • "This moderating effect of trait dominance on testosterone's behavioral effects in both experimental and correlational studies aligns well with mechanisms involving the mesolimbic system discussed above. Indeed, dominance is a personality trait that emerges across species and is related to attaining higher status (Johnson et al., 2012; Favati et al., 2014). Dopaminergic activity in the central nervous system correlates with trait dominance in monkeys (Kaplan et al., 2002), and dopamine receptor availability in the ventral striatum is correlated with status in humans (Martinez et al., 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: The present experiment tested the causal impact of testosterone on human competitive decision-making. According to prevailing theories about testosterone's role in social behavior, testosterone should directly boost competitive decisions. But recent correlational evidence suggests that testosterone's behavioral effects may depend on specific aspects of the context and person relevant to social status (win-lose context and trait dominance). We tested the causal influence of testosterone on competitive decisions by combining hormone administration with measures of trait dominance and a newly developed social competition task in which the victory-defeat context was experimentally manipulated, in a sample of 54 female participants. Consistent with the hypothesis that testosterone has context- and person-dependent effects on competitive behavior, testosterone increased competitive decisions after victory only among high-dominant individuals but testosterone decreased competitive decisions after defeat across all participants. These results suggest that testosterone flexibly modulates competitive decision-making depending on prior social experience and dominance motivation in the service of enhancing social status. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Psychoneuroendocrinology 07/2015; 60:224-236. DOI:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.07.004 · 4.94 Impact Factor
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    • "These studies support a dual-hormone hypothesis: High testosterone coupled with low cortisol is an adaptive endocrine profile in status-relevant contexts such as leadership, whereas high testosterone coupled with high cortisol is a maladaptive profile. Some of the same mechanisms that regulate dominant, approach-oriented leadership behaviors may also underlie bargaining behaviors that maximize monetary rewards (e.g., reward processing ), and some of the same mechanisms that regulate stress-related leadership behaviors may also underlie financially costly bargaining behaviors driven by social concern (e.g., threat processing; Gospic et al., 2011; Hermans et al., 2010; Johnson, Leedom, & Muhtadie, 2012). Thus, dual-hormone interactions may extend beyond leadership to bargaining behaviors as well. "
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    ABSTRACT: In the present research, we found that endogenous testosterone and cortisol changes were jointly related to bargaining outcomes. In a face-to-face competitive negotiation (Study 1) and a laboratory-based bargaining game (Study 2), testosterone rises were associated with high earnings and high relationship quality, but only if cortisol dropped. If cortisol rose, testosterone rises were associated with low earnings and poor relationship quality. Conflict between financial and social goals was related to the financially costly dual-hormone profile (testosterone increase and cortisol decrease), whereas the absence of such conflict was related to the financially adaptive dual-hormone profile (testosterone increase and cortisol increase). The findings suggest that when cortisol decreases, rising testosterone is implicated in adaptive bargaining behavior that maximizes earnings and relationship quality. But when cortisol increases, rising testosterone is related to conflict between social and financial motives, weak earnings, and poor relationship quality. These results imply that there are both bright and dark sides to rising testosterone in economic social interactions that depend on fluctuations in cortisol. © The Author(s) 2015.
    Psychological Science 04/2015; 26(6). DOI:10.1177/0956797615572905 · 4.43 Impact Factor
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    • "These findings lent further support to theoretical accounts which place concerns with social rank and power at the core of SA (e.g., Gilbert, 2001; Gilbert and Trower, 2001; Mineka and Öhman, 2002; Johnson et al., 2012; Gilboa-Schechtman and Shachar-Lavie, 2013). HSA individuals opt for submissive or deferring responses when faced with social threats—either exclusion or defeat. "
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    ABSTRACT: Social Anxiety (SA) has been shown to be associated with compensatory deficits in pro-social behavior following exclusion and with failure to capitalize on social success. We assessed the subjective and expressive responses of high (n = 48) and low (n = 56) socially anxious individuals to exclusion, acceptance, and popularity induced by a participation in an online ball-tossing game. Before the manipulation, participants read aloud neutral and command utterances. Following the manipulation, participants rated their mood and cognitions and re-read the utterances. Acoustic properties (fundamental frequency-mF0, vocal intensity) of these utterances were analyzed. We found greater differences in self-esteem between high and low socially anxious individuals following the exclusion condition, as compared to the acceptance condition. Among low socially anxious individuals, exclusion promoted increased vocal confidence, as indicated by decreased mF0 and increased vocal intensity in uttering commands; High socially anxious individuals exhibited an opposite reaction, responding to exclusion by decreased vocal confidence. Following popularity, high SA was associated with decreased enhancement in mood and self-esteem in women but not in men. Consistent with evolutionary and interpersonal accounts of SA, we highlight the importance of examining the effects of SA and gender on events indicating unambiguous and unanimous social acceptance. Examining reactivity to changes in belongingness may have important implications for understanding the core mechanisms of SA.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 03/2014; 8:147. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00147 · 2.99 Impact Factor
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