The term “pecking order” is usually used when we are talking about groups of humans and the hierarchies they form, but it was originally used when scientists were studying the hierarchy of chickens. The animals demonstrate their power in the group by pecking each other. Sounds brutal, and it is, but it’s just the way things work. Chimpanzees can be incredibly ruthless, with the stronger members of the group sometimes literally tearing the weaker chimps to pieces. The stronger male chimps get all the girls, the best food, and the coziest place to sleep at night. Us humans, with our consciousness and conscientiousness, tend not to be so hostile, but we do form hierarchies. Where do you stand in this hierarchy?
First of all, we are not saying that humans form a very rigid and structured hierarchy exactly the same as some animals, such as the aforementioned chimps. Nonetheless, we certainly do create a status for ourselves throughout life and our success in life affords us lots of benefits. The controversial Canadian clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson believes we work in these hierarchies and have always done so. He compares our brains to the brains of lobsters, in that like the crustacean, our confidence and power is awarded with secretions of serotonin, and that only gives us more power. The alpha lobster seems to have it easy.
So, what is an alpha? The dictionary terms for alpha male says basically it’s a dominant male in a group, or a person that is dominant in certain situations or in a professional role. Looking at various descriptions of alpha male, you will find certain things are usually repeated. It’s said they are usually charming, attractive, and will have no problem finding a female mate. While some experts state that these alpha males might be bullies, others state that the true alpha male will be a protector of his friends. He can fight, but he is reasonable and will not lash out.
Well, we should tell you that you can also have an alpha female, or even an alpha pair, it just depends what species of animal we are talking about. As for humans, some scientists tell us that we don’t even have this kind of ranking system. It’s an ongoing debate. We certainly do have a way of behaving in groups, and when studied, that’s called ethology. We’ll let you decide if humans have similar dominance dynamics to animals.
Some species will have an alpha, but there is also a second in command called the beta. Then there is the lowest in the pecking order, the unfortunate beasts that are submissive and subordinate to others in the group. These are called omegas.
We’ll give you a quick rundown of other personality traits in the form of alpha male adjectives: courageous, entertaining, athletic, funny, humble, intelligent, talkative, hardworking, fair, stylish, self-composed, ethical, independent, generous, and persuasive.
There are more descriptions, but you get the idea. The alpha male according to some sources is pretty much a perfect man, and far from the bullying, brutal alpha chimpanzee. He almost sounds like a fictional character, given that to have all those traits is not an easy thing. If we actually look at fictional alpha males, even some of those could be said to be lacking. Some of those men include: Tyler Durden from Fight Club, James Bond, Tony Stark, Danny Ocean from Ocean’s Eleven, and even Jon Snow.
What about alpha males in real life?
According to the author Stefan Djordjevic, we certainly do fill these rolls. At least, he says, men do. He wrote a book called, “How to Approach Women – Effective Ways to Be More Alpha.” In the book he examines the concept of alpha males, but he says that the traits of these men can be learned, rather than something we are just born with. The traits are what we have already discussed, and the first thing to learn is to be confident. Success pays in serotonin, and that builds happiness and more confidence. But this seems too simplistic.
In an article in the Independent in 2017, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman said being alpha male is context specific. He gives the example of a Fortune 500 company CEO being given a very high social status, but if that CEO were to find himself in one of the USA’s toughest prisons, his status would likely soon be beta or omega. “You can be an alpha amongst one group, and a beta in another,” he said. He also said that what makes men attractive to women is very complicated, but certain traits such as confidence, kindness, and assertiveness are pretty much always attractive. Power and certainly aggression can be viewed as unattractive. So, you might be the alpha male of your rugby team, but that might not work in the office. Kaufman takes a dim view of the aggressive alpha male, saying, “The true alpha is fuller, deeper, and richer.” The alpha male must be cultivated, he says, which is a far cry from the powerful Genghis Khan type of alpha male. But, what do others think? Is the alpha male just a myth, or is denying that such men exist a kind of political correctness?
Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky tells us it is a myth, that we are too complex to have such a structured hierarchy and we also have many different groups of people we spend time with. However, in a 2014 article in Psychology Today, it was stated that while we may not have alpha males, we certainly have social dominance. Tall, strong men are usually dominant, the article said, and it cited research showing that height can even affect how much money you earn. It also cited research related to how men with deep voices are more successful with women, something called “the Barry White Effect.” Not surprisingly, handsome men also are said to be more dominant. So, if you are tall, a smooth talker, and have a handsome, rugged face, it is likely that women will want to procreate with you. In a separate article by the same source, it was said that hormones in men matter a lot when it comes to attracting a woman. “A strong sense of connection to others in the group increases levels of oxytocin, which moderate stress and allows high levels of testosterone to promote competitive behavior,” said the article. So, in order to promote increases of this hormone, we need empathy and we need to bond, which again is a far cry from the image of the aggressive alpha male.
We looked at more research regarding this controversial topic. In a 2016 Guardian story, one neuroscientist called Dean Burnett writes that certainly some men will be socially dominant, and this will be down to a combination of physical and psychological qualities. But, and it’s a big but, sometimes these dominant men are just faking their confidence. They are all show, said the article, and by pretending to be an alpha male, you often get what you want. But again, contradictions will occur. Reiterating what others have said, a dominant man in the factory might well be under the thumb of his lover. The argument for a universal alpha is apparently quite weak in terms of research, so we have to look at context. He argues that perhaps the human alpha male is actually “a combination of disgruntled male wish fulfilment and borderline-pseudoscientific justification for resorting to bullying, intimidation and generally all-round unpleasant behavior.”
This doesn’t seem like such a good thing, but then it is only one point of view. So, do you think you are the alpha among your friends? Let us know in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our other video called What Makes Popular Kids Popular? Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!