Description: Mammals are aware of social hierarchies, right? You are sitting around a table sharing pizza with a few other people. There is one slice left and you want it. As you reach out for it another hand also reaches out for it. What do you do? It depends, right? What if you are sitting around the family dinner table and the other hand belongs to your much younger sister? What if the table is in the breakroom at work and the other hand belongs to your boss? Does it matter how much you want to last piece of pizza? How so? Now, is all this just family or work politics or do you think that there might be identifiable things going on in your brain that could predict what you would do AND which would take the social relationships and your need state into account and predict your action with quite good accuracy? NO, they have not yet, to my knowledge, run a study on pizza tugs of war with the participants in brain scanning machines. However, they HAVE done similar research with mice (but without pizza). Have a read through the linked article to see what was done and what the results suggest about our brains, social status tracking and winning mind-sets.
Source: How the Brain encodes social rank and ‘winning mindset.’ ScienceDaily.
Date: March 16, 2022
So perhaps the pizza examples made this seem a bit simple but the idea that mammal brains have an area that codes and stores social dominance clearly speaks to the evolutionary (and perhaps current social, importance of this factor. Better understanding of this area of the brain, as suggested by the researchers, may provide some deeper insight into the sorts of social withdrawal that are linked to depression and other issues. Also, know more about how the brain-based foundations of winning mindsets and their portrayal assistance in general theories of motivation and in remediation of the impacts of social traumas or recovery from mental conditions. The developmental question, that the researchers are moving on to next – looking at when in development this brain representations of social hierarchies are first laid down will be quite fascinating.
Questions for Discussion:
- What are social hierarchies and what are some examples in humans and other animals?
- What areas of our understanding of mammal (human) functioning be better illuminate by the line of research discussed in the linked article?
- What sorts of areas or questions might be better illuminated by the developmental research that the linked article researchers are turning to next?
References (Read Further):
Fan, Z., Zhu, H., Zhou, T., Wang, S., Wu, Y., & Hu, H. (2019). Using the tube test to measure social hierarchy in mice. Nature Protocols, 14(3), 819-831. Link
Van Den Berg, W. E., Lamballais, S., & Kushner, S. A. (2015). Sex-specific mechanism of social hierarchy in mice. Neuropsychopharmacology, 40(6), 1364-1372. Link
Lee, W., Yang, E., & Curley, J. P. (2018). Foraging dynamics are associated with social status and context in mouse social hierarchies. PeerJ, 6, e5617. Link
Yamaguchi, Y., Lee, Y. A., Kato, A., Jas, E., & Goto, Y. (2017). The roles of dopamine D2 receptor in the social hierarchy of rodents and primates. Scientific reports, 7(1), 1-10. Link
Tramacere, A., & Iriki, A. (2021). A novel mind‐set in primate experimentation: Implications for primate welfare. Animal Models and Experimental Medicine, 4(4), 343-350. Link