Ontogeny and social dominance: A developmental view of human power patterns

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Developmental science has long evolutionary roots and has historically focused on individual differences. Accordingly, developmental models can inform conversations about phylogeny and personality. The present paper evokes life history theory to describe a theoretical model of competitive behavior that applies to both children and adults (resource control theory: RCT). The model suggests that prosocial and coercive behavior, though different in manifest form, serve similar evolutionary functions. Accordingly, RCT presents a view on social dominance that gives primacy to function over form that contrasts sharply from traditional views. This reformulation gives rise to novel questions (both developmental and non-developmental) and challenges long accepted views on prosociality (e.g., that it is altruistic) and aggression (e.g., that it is maladaptive). Similarly, RCT gives rise to a minority perspective that aligns aggression with social competence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-342
Number of pages25
JournalEvolutionary Psychology
Issue numberSPECIALISSUE.2
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Development
  • Individual differences
  • Personality
  • Power
  • Prestige
  • Social dominance

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