What benefits do higher rankings bring?


Higher rankings bring several psychological and physiological benefits, especially in a hierarchical social structure. For example, in the study of baboon societies discussed by , high-ranking individuals experience significant advantages:

  1. Control and Predictability: High-ranking individuals have more control over their environment and interactions. This control contributes to predictability in their daily lives, which is a crucial factor in managing stress.

  2. Reduced Stress: Those at the top of the hierarchy can manage their stress better because they have the power to influence or control others. For instance, they can enforce grooming behavior from subordinates, which can be calming and stress-reducing.

  3. Improved Health Markers: Initially, it appears that high-ranking individuals have better physiological health markers, such as lower blood pressure and better immune function, compared to their lower-ranking counterparts.

However, these benefits are significantly affected by the stability of the hierarchy. A stable hierarchy allows high-ranking individuals to enjoy these benefits consistently. In contrast, an unstable hierarchy, where the threat of being overthrown is imminent, can negate these advantages and may lead to higher stress levels than those experienced by the lowest-ranking individuals 1.

The Impact of Rank

Dr. Robert Sapolsky discusses the psychological advantages and disadvantages of rank in a baboon society. Contrary to initial beliefs, being at the top of an unstable hierarchy can lead to increased stress levels, even surpassing those of the most subordinate individuals. The significance of rank and its implications on stress management are explored.

Armchair Expert

Robert Sapolsky (on human behavior and free will)