Social hierarchies are observed in pretty much every sentient being. To understand social hierarchies we need to first learn a few terms (and its deepest meaning) that are commonly used while studying its neural and psychological foundations.
One of the research papers from NCBI states that every social hierarchy begins with the status perception among groups, no matter whether they are humans or other non-human primates.
Social groups identify themselves as a part of the group by immediately self-organising themselves into hierarchies. The hierarchy they exhibit is built on values such as their physical strength, power, influence within the group, skills that matter and the dominance level. As per neural findings, the status has an immense impact on one’s attention, memory, social interactions, and even on their physical and mental health.
Surprisingly social status is realised with the presence of a neural network that looks after emotions, reward processing and execution of responses. Like other non-human primates, humans use cues like physical strength to make status judgements, although on top of these primitive perceptual cues are cues that are developed on the neural level within humans such as literacy, job titles, asset values, etc.
Remember during your childhood days, people ask you about your ambitions of your adulthood?
While we have chemical compounds doing their job, our society plays a big role in how the thoughts about status perception are seeded inside our minds. As we learn to identify people based on their status, dominance, skill and physical strength since the early stage of our neural development it’s quite hard to overlook such learnings. Our brain tends to process every cue that others exhibit and we have a natural affinity for things that match either our subconscious or conscious search.
Assigning ranks and perceiving status cues come with ease for humans and other non-human primates. An adult who grew up in the middle of a city full of modern infrastructure will instantly make status perception when he/she notices sports cars or big houses. The rate in which we perceive status cues reflects the choice for hierarchical organisation within communities.
The better we understand our place in a community it helps us organise ourselves as per needs and to promote advantageous social interactions. Analysing and recognising one’s social status helps us to know where we stand compared to others, which is necessary to find the meaning of one’s actions and existence.
Each one of us varies in skills and we are in constant search for people who can combine their skills with ours to make it a better combo. To coordinate and live in unison and to thrive in situations where group organisation is required, social hierarchies lead the way into aligning people with needed skills in line, for perfect victory.
Like other skills such as communication, problem-solving, and the ability to work under pressure, social skills are considered primary. Social skills and the ability to organise groups in a hierarchical manner is important and it is directly proportional to group productivity and group cohesion.
Part 2 of “The need and inevitable nature of social hierarchies” will give you more understanding of status characteristics in humans and other non-human primates along with three important parts of social hierarchy — structure, function and formation.
Let’s also cover the traits we all naturally carry in ourselves and the role of neurochemicals that trigger responses for specific behaviours.